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1911 to 1915 


4, $\ a -*> 


At Martin's House 



Copyright, 1923, by 

Printed in the United States of America 

Published April, 1923 


T7R0M October 25, 191 1, to May 28, 191 5, I was, in the 
-*• words of the Royal Letters Patent and Orders in Council, 
" responsible to Crown and Parliament for all the business of 
the Admiral ty." This period comprised the final stage in the 
preparation against a war with Germany; the mobilisation and 
concentration of the Fleet before the outbreak; the organisa- 
tion of the Blockade; the gathering in 1914 of the Imperial 
forces from all over the world; the clearance from the oceans 
of all the German cruisers and commerce destroyers; the rein- 
forcement of the Fleet by new construction in 1914 and 1915; 
the frustration and defeat of the first German submarine at- 
tack upon merchant shipping in 1915; and the initiation of the 
enterprise against the Dardanelles. It was marked before 
the war by a complete revision of British naval war plans; 
by the building of a fast division of battleships armed with 
15-inch guns and driven by oil fuel; by the proposals, rejected 
by Germany, for a naval holiday; and by the largest supplies 
till then ever voted by Parliament for the British Fleet. It 
was distinguished during the war for the victories of the 
Heligoland Bight, of the Falkland Islands and the Dogger 
Bank; and for the attempt to succour Antwerp. It was mem- 
orable for the disaster to the three cruisers off the Dutch 
Coast; the loss of Admiral Cradock's squadron at Coronel; 
and the failure of the Navy to force the Dardanelles. 

Many accounts of these matters have been published both 
here and abroad. Most of the principal actors have unfolded 
their story. Lord Fisher, Lord Jellicoe, Lord French, Lord 
Kitchener's biographer, Lord Haig's Staff, and many others 


of less importance, have with the utmost fullness and free- 
dom given their account of these and other war-time events 
and of the controversies arising out of them. The German 
accounts are numerous and authoritative. Admirals von 
Tirpitz and Scheer have told their tales. Sir Julian Corbett, 
the Official Historian, has in a thousand pages recorded the 
conduct of the naval war during the whole of my adminis- 
tration. Eight years have passed since I quitted the Ad- 

In all these circumstances I feel it both my right and my 
duty to set forth the manner in which I endeavoured to dis- 
charge my share in these hazardous responsibilities. In doing 
so I have adhered to certain strict rules. I have made no 
important statement of fact relating to naval operations or 
Admiralty business, on which I do not possess unimpeachable 
documentary proof. I have made or implied no criticism of 
any decision or action taken or neglected by others unless I 
can prove that I had expressed the same opinion in writing 
before the event. 

Many of the accounts which I have mentioned above 
enjoy the great advantage of having been written some con- 
siderable time after the events with which they deal, when 
the results of schemes and operations set on foot in the early 
days of the war could be clearly seen, and when the ideas 
and impressions of 19 14 and 191 5 could be reviewed in the 
broad and certain experience and science of 19 18 and after. 
There are no doubt obvious conveniences in this way of 
treating the subject. Actors in these great situations are 
able to dwell with certainty upon those of their opinions and 
directions which have effectively been vindicated by the 
subsequent course of the war, and they are not, on the other 
hand, obliged to disturb the public mind by dwelling on any 
errors of neglect or commission into which they may possibly 
have been betrayed. I have followed a different method. 

In every case where the interests of the State allow, I have 


printed the actual memoranda, directions, minutes, tele- 
grams or letters written by me at the time, irrespective of 
whether these documents have been vindicated or falsified 
by the march of history and of time. The only excisions 
of relevant matter from the documents have been made to 
avoid needlessly hurting the feelings of individuals, or the 
pride of friendly nations. For such reasons here and there 
sentences have been softened or suppressed. But the whole 
story is recorded as it happened, by the actual counsels of- 
fered and orders given in the fierce turmoil of each day. 
The principal minutes by which Admiralty business was 
conducted embody in every case decisions for which, as the 
highest executive authority in the department, I was directly 
responsible, and are in all cases expressed in my own words. 
I am equally accountable, together with the First Sea Lord 
at the time, for the principal telegrams which moved fleets, 
squadrons and individual ships, all of which (unless the con- 
trary appears) bear my initials as their final sanction. 

The number of minutes and telegrams published in these 
volumes is, of course, only a fraction of the whole. Re- 
stricted space and the fear of wearying the reader have ex- 
cluded much. But lest it should be thought that there have 
been any material suppressions, or that what is published 
does not truly represent what occurred, or the way things 
were done, I affirm my own willingness to see every docu- 
ment of Admiralty administration for which I am responsible 
made public provided it is presented in its fair context. 
Sometimes a dozen or even a score of important decisions had 
to be taken in a single day. Complicated directions and rec- 
ommendations were given in writing as fast as they could 
be dictated, and were acted upon without recall thereafter. 
Nothing of any consequence was done by me by word of 
mouth. A complete record therefore exists both of execu- 
tive and administrative action. 

If in the great number of decisions and orders which these 


pages recount and which deal with so many violent and 
controversial affairs, mistakes can be found which led to 
mishap, the fault is mine. If, on the other hand, favourable 
results were achieved, that should be counted to some extent 
as an offset. Where the decision lay outside my powers 
and was taken contrary to my advice, I rest on the written 
record of my warning. Should it be objected that in any of 
these matters, many of them so highly technical, a lands- 
man and layman could form no valuable opinion, I point to 
the documents themselves. They can be judged as they stand, 
but lest, on the other hand, it should be thought that I am 
seeking to claim credit whch is not mine, it must be remem- 
bered that throughout this period I enjoyed the assistance, 
loyal, spontaneous and unstinted, of the best brains of the 
Royal Navy, that every treasure of every branch of the Ad- 
miralty and the Fleet was lavished upon my instruction, and 
that I had only to apply my own reason and instinct to the 
arguments of those who I believe stood in the foremost rank 
of the naval experts of the world. 

Taking a general view in after years of the transactions 
of this terrific epoch, I commend with some confidence the 
story as a whole to the judgment of my countrymen. It has 
long been the fashion to disparage the policy and actions of 
the Ministers who bore the burden of power in the fateful 
years before the War, and who faced the extraordinary perils 
of its outbreak and opening phases. Abroad, in Allied, in 
neutral, and above all, in enemy States, their work is regarded 
with respect and even admiration. At home, criticism has 
been its only meed. I hope that this account may be agree- 
able to those at least who wish to think well of our country, 
of its naval service, of its governing institutions, of its po- 
litical life and public men; and that they will feel that perhaps 
after all Britain and her Empire have not been so ill-guided 
through the great convulsions as it is customary to declare. 

Lastly, I must record my thanks to Vice-Admiral Thomas 


Jackson and others who have aided me in the preparation 
and revision of this work, especially in its technical aspect, 
and to those who have given me permission to quote corre- 
spondence or conversations in which they were concerned. 

*yisi^9 e^*vO . LsC4*++~><s&is6£ 

London, January, 1923. 



I The Vials of Wrath . 



Milestones to Armageddon 

. 19 


The Crisis of Agadir . 

• 38 


Admirals All 

. 68 


The German Navy Law . 

• 95 


The Romance of Design . 

• 125 


The North Sea Front . 

. 149 


Ireland and the European Balance 

. 179 


The Crisis 

. 203 


The Mobilisation of the Navy 

. 228 


War: The Passage of the Army 

• 247 


The Battle in France . 

. 281 


On the Oceans 

• 305 


In the Narrow Seas . 

• 33o 


Antwerp ....... 

• 355 


The Channel Ports 

■ 39i 


The Grand Fleet and the Submarine Ala 

RM . 413 






XIX With Fisher at the Admiralty 



XX The Bombardment of Scarborough and Har- 
tlepool 502 

XXI Turkey and the Balkans 
Appendix A 
Appendix B 
Appendix C 
Appendix D 
Appendix E 

. 522 

Naval Staff Training 552 

Tables of Fleet Strength 558 

. Trade Protection 562 

Mining 566 

First Lord's Minutes 570 

• 579 


I Home Waters 

II The Escape of the "Goeben" 

III On the Oceans 

IV Antwerp and the Belgium Coast 


VI The i 6th December, 1914 






The Seventeen Points of the First Lord 


Facsimile of Admiralty's Instructions to the Com- 
mander-in-Chief at Devonport . . facing page 474 



i 870-1904 

"To put on record what were their grounds of feud." 


The Unending Task — Ruthless War — The Victorian Age — National 
Pride — National Accountability — The Franco-German Feud — 
Bismarck's Apprehension — His Precautions and Alliances — The 
Bismarckian Period and System — The Young Emperor and 
Capri vi — The Franco-Russian Alliance, 1892 — The Balance of 
Power — Anglo-German Ties — Anglo-German Estrangement — 
Germany and the South African War — The Beginnings of the 
German Navy — The Birth of a Challenge — The Anglo- Japanese 
Alliance — The Russo-Japanese War — Consequences — The Anglo- 
French Agreement of 1904 — Lord Rosebery's Comment — The 
Triple Entente — Degeneration in Turkey and Austria — The Long 
Descent — The Sinister Hypothesis. 

FT was the custom in the palmy days of Queen Victoria for 
■*■ statesmen to expatiate upon the glories of the British Em- 
pire, and to rejoice in that protecting Providence which had 
preserved us through so many dangers and brought us at 
length into a secure and prosperous age. Little did they 
know that the worst perils had still to be encountered and 
that the greatest triumphs were yet to be won. 

Children were taught of the Great War against Napoleon as 
the culminating effort in the history of the British peoples, 
and they looked on Waterloo and Trafalgar as the supreme 
achievements of British arms by land and sea. These prodi- 
gious victories, eclipsing all that had gone before, seemed the 
fit and predestined ending to the long drama of our island race, 
which had advanced over a thousand years from small and 
weak beginnings to a foremost position in the world. Three 


separate times in three different centuries had the British peo- 
ple rescued Europe from a military domination. Thrice had 
the Low Countries been assailed; by Spain, by the French 
Monarchy, by the French Empire. Thrice had British war 
and policy, often maintained single-handed, overthrown the 
aggressor. Always at the outset the strength of the enemy 
had seemed overwhelming, always the struggle had been pro- 
longed through many years and across awful hazards, always 
the victory had at last been won: and the last of all the vic- 
tories had been the greatest of all, gained after the most ruin- 
ous struggle and over the most formidable foe. 

Surely that was the end of the tale as it was so often the 
end of the book. History showed the rise, culmination, 
splendour, transition and decline of States and Empires. It 
seemed inconceivable that the same series of tremendous 
events through which since the days of Queen Elizabeth we 
had three times made our way successfully, should be repeated 
a fourth time and on an immeasurably larger scale. Yet 
that is what has happened, and what we have lived to see. 

The Great War through which we have passed differed 
from all ancient wars in the immense power of the combatants 
and their fearful agencies of destruction, and from all modern 
wars in the utter ruthlessness with which it was fought. All 
the horrors of all the ages were brought together, and not 
only armies but whole populations were thrust into the midst 
of them. The mighty educated States involved conceived 
with reason that their very existence was at stake. Germany 
having let Hell loose kept well in the van of terror; but she 
was followed step by step by the desperate and ultimately 
avenging nations she had assailed. Every outrage against 
humanity or international law was repaid by reprisals often 
on a greater scale and of longer duration. No truce or par- 
ley mitigated the strife of the armies. The wounded died 


between the lines: the dead mouldered into the soil. Mer- 
chant ships and neutral ships and hospital ships were sunk on 
the seas and all on board left to their fate, or killed as they 
swam. Every effort was made to starve whole nations into 
submission without regard to age or sex. Cities and monu- 
ments were smashed by artillery. Bombs from the air were 
cast down indiscriminately. Poison gas in many forms stifled 
or seared the soldiers. Liquid fire was projected upon their 
bodies. Men fell from the air in flames, or were smothered, 
often slowly, in the dark recesses of the sea. The fighting 
strength of armies was limited only by the manhood of their 
countries. Europe and large parts of Asia and Africa became 
one vast battlefield on which after years of struggle not ar- 
mies but nations broke and ran. When all was over, Torture 
and Cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civil- 
ised, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny them- 
selves: and these were of doubtful utility. 

But nothing daunted the valiant heart of man. Son of the 
Stone Age, vanquisher of nature with all her trials and mon- 
sters, he met the awful and self-inflicted agony with new re- 
serves of fortitude. Freed in the main by his intelligence 
from mediaeval fears, he marched to death with sombre 
dignity. His nervous system was found in the twentieth 
century capable of enduring physical and moral stresses be- 
fore which the simpler natures of primeval times would have 
collapsed. Again and again to the hideous bombardment, 
again and again from the hospital to the front, again and 
again to the hungry submarines, he strode unflinching. And 
withal, as an individual, preserved through these torments 
the glories of a reasonable and compassionate mind. 

In the beginning of the twentieth century men were every- 
where unconscious of the rate at which the world was grow- 
ing. It required the convulsion of the war to awaken the na- 


tions to the knowledge of their strength. For a year after 
the war had begun hardly anyone understood how terrific, 
how almost inexhaustible were the resources in force, in sub- 
stance, in virtue, behind every one of the combatants. The 
vials of wrath were full: but so were the reservoirs of power. 
From the end of the Napoleonic Wars and still more after 
1870, the accumulation of wealth and health by every civilised 
community had been practically unchecked. Here and there 
a retarding episode had occurred. The waves had recoiled 
after advancing: but the mounting tides still flowed. And 
when the dread signal of Armageddon was made, mankind 
was found to be many times stronger in valour, in endurance, 
in brains, in science, in apparatus, in organisation, not only 
than it had ever been before, but than even its most audacious 
optimists had dared to dream. 

The Victorian Age was the age of accumulation; not of a 
mere piling up of material wealth, but of the growth and 
gathering in every land of all those elements and factors 
which go to make up the power of States. Education spread 
itself over the broad surface of the millions. Science had 
opened the limitless treasure-house of nature. Door after 
door had been unlocked. One dim mysterious gallery after 
another had been lighted up, explored, made free for all: and 
every gallery entered gave access to at least two more. Every 
morning when the world woke up, some new machinery had 
started running. Every night while the world had supper, it 
was running still. It ran on while all men slept. 

And the advance of the collective mind was at a similar 
pace. Disraeli said of the early years of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, "In those days England was for the few — and for the 
very few." Every year of Queen Victoria's reign saw those 
limits broken and extended. Every year brought in new 
thousands of people in private stations who thought about 
their own country and its story and its duties towards other 
countries, to the world and to the future, and understood the 


greatness of the responsibilities of which they were the heirs. 
Every year diffused a wider measure of material comfort 
among the higher ranks of labour. Substantial progress was 
made in mitigating the hard lot of the mass. Their health 
improved, their lives and the lives of their children were bright- 
ened, their stature grew, their securities against some of their 
gravest misfortunes were multiplied, their numbers greatly 

Thus when all the trumpets sounded, every class and rank 
had something to give to the need of the State. Some gave 
their science and some their wealth, some gave their bus- 
iness energy and drive, and some their wonderful personal 
prowess, and some their patient strength or patient weak- 
ness. But none gave more, or gave more readily, than the 
common man or woman who had nothing but a precarious 
week's wages between them and poverty, and owned little 
more than the slender equipment of a cottage, and the gar- 
ments in which they stood upright. Their love and pride of 
country, their loyalty to the symbols with which they were 
familiar, their keen sense of right and wrong as they saw it, 
led them to outface and endure perils and ordeals the like of 
which men had not known on earth. 

But these developments, these virtues, were no monopoly 
of any one nation. In every free country, great or small, the 
spirit of patriotism and nationality grew steadily; and in 
every country, bond or free, the organisation and structure 
into which men were fitted by the laws, gathered and armed 
this sentiment. Far more than their vices, the virtues of 
nations ill-directed or mis-directed by their rulers, became the 
cause of their own undoing and of the general catastrophe. 
And these rulers, in Germany, Austria, and Italy; in France, 
Russia or Britain, how far were they to blame? Was there 
any man of real eminence and responsibility whose devil heart 
conceived and willed this awful thing? One rises from the 
study of the causes of the Great War with a prevailing sense 


of the defective control of individuals upon world fortunes. 
It has been well said, " there is always more error than 
design in human affairs. " The limited minds even of the 
ablest men, their disputed authority, the climate of opinion 
in which they dwell, their transient and partial contributions 
to the mighty problem, that problem itself so far beyond their 
compass, so vast in scale and detail, so changing in its aspect 
— all this must surely be considered before the complete con- 
demnation of the vanquished or the complete acquittal of the 
victors can be pronounced. Events also got on to certain 
lines, and no one could get them off again. Germany clanked 
obstinately, recklessly, awkwardly towards the crater and 
dragged us all in with her. But fierce resentment dwelt in 
France, and in Russia there were wheels within wheels. 
Could we in England perhaps by some effort, by some sac- 
rifice of our material interests, by some compulsive gesture, 
at once of friendship and command, have reconciled France 
and Germany in time and formed that grand association on 
which alone the peace and glory of Europe would be safe ? I 
cannot tell. I only know that we tried our best to steer our 
country through the gathering dangers of the armed peace 
without bringing her to war or others to war, and when these 
efforts failed, we drove through the tempest without bringing 
her to destruction. 

There is no need here to trace the ancient causes of quarrel 
between the Germans and the French, to catalogue the con- 
flicts with which they have scarred the centuries, nor to ap- 
praise the balance of injury or of provocation on one side or 
the other. When on the 18th of January, 187 1, the triumph of 
the Germans was consolidated by the Proclamation of the 
German Empire in the Palace of Versailles, a new volume of 
European history was opened. " Europe," it was said, 
"has lost a mistress and has gained a master." A new and 


mighty State had come into being, sustained by an overflow- 
ing population, equipped with science and learning, organised 
for war and crowned with victory. France, stripped of Alsace 
and Lorraine, beaten, impoverished, divided and alone, con- 
demned to a decisive and increasing numerical inferiority, fell 
back to ponder in shade and isolation on her departed glories. 
But the chiefs of the German Empire were under no illusions 
as to the formidable character and implacable resolves of their 
prostrate antagonist. "What we gained by arms in half a 
year," said Moltke, "we must protect by arms for half a cen- 
tury, if it is not to be torn from us again." Bismarck, more 
prudent still, would never have taken Lorraine. Forced by 
military pressure to assume the double burden against his 
better judgment, he exhibited from the outset and in every 
act of his policy an extreme apprehension. Restrained by the 
opinion of the world, and the decided attitude of Great 
Britain, from striking down a reviving France in 1875, he 
devoted his whole power and genius to the construction of 
an elaborate system of alliances designed to secure the con- 
tinued ascendancy of Germany and the maintenance of her 
conquests. He knew the quarrel with France was irrecon- 
cilable except at a price which Germany would never con- 
sent to pay. He understood that the abiding enmity of a 
terrific people would be fixed on his new-built Empire. Every- 
thing else must be subordinated to that central fact. Ger- 
many could afford no other antagonisms. In 1879 he formed 
an alliance with Austria. Four years later this was expanded 
into the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria and 
Italy. Roumania was brought into this system by a secret 
alliance in 1883. Not only must there be Insurance; there 
must be Reinsurance. What he feared most was a counter- 
alliance between France and Russia; and none of these ex- 
tending arrangements met this danger. His alliance with 
Austria indeed, if left by itself, would naturally tend to draw 
France and Russia together. Could he not make a league of 


the three Emperors — Germany, Austria, and Russia united ? 
There at last was overwhelming strength and enduring 
safety. When in 1887 after six years, this supreme ideal of 
Bismarck was ruptured by the clash of Russian and Austrian 
interests in the Balkans, he turned — as the best means still 
open to him — to his Reinsurance Treaty with Russia. Ger- 
many, by this arrangement, secured herself against becoming 
the object of an aggressive combination by France and Rus- 
sia. Russia on the other hand was reassured that the Austro- 
German alliance would not be used to undermine her posi- 
tion in the Balkans. 

All these cautious and sapient measures were designed with 
the object of enabling Germany to enjoy her victory in peace. 
The Bismarckian system, further, always included the princi- 
ple of good relations with Great Britain. This was necessary, 
for it was well known that Italy would never willingly commit 
herself to anything that would bring her into war with Great 
Britain, and had, as the world now knows, required this fact 
to be specifically stated in the original and secret text of the 
Triple Alliance. To this Alliance in its early years Great 
Britain had been wholly favourable. Thus France was left 
to nurse her scars alone; and Germany, assured in her pre- 
dominance on the Continent, was able to take the fullest ad- 
vantage of the immense industrial developments which char- 
acterised the close of the nineteenth century. The policy of 
Germany further encouraged France as a consolation to de- 
velop her colonial possessions in order to take her thoughts 
off Europe, and incidentally to promote a convenient rivalry 
and friction with Great Britain. 

This arrangement, under which Europe lived rigidly but 
peacefully for twenty years, and Germany waxed in power and 
splendour, was ended in 1890 with the fall of Bismarck. The 
Iron Chancellor was gone, and new forces began to assail the 
system he had maintained with consummate ability so long. 
There was a constant danger of conflagration in the Balkans 


and in the Near East through Turkish misgovernment. The 
rising tides of pan-Slavism and the strong an ti- German cur- 
rents in Russia began to wash against the structure of the Re- 
insurance Treaty. Lastly, German ambitions grew with Ger- 
man prosperity. Not content with the hegemony of Europe, 
she sought a colonial domain. Already the greatest of mili- 
tary Empires, she began increasingly to turn her thoughts 
to the sea. The young Emperor, freed from Bismarck and 
finding in Count Caprivi, and the lesser men who succeeded 
him, complacent coadjutors, began gaily to dispense with the 
safeguards and precautions by which the safety of Germany 
had been buttressed. While the quarrel with France remained 
open and undying, the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia was 
dropped, and later on the naval rivalry with Britain was be- 
gun. These two sombre decisions rolled forward slowly as 
the years unfolded. Their consequences became apparent in 
due season. In 1892 the event against which the whole 
policy of Bismarck had been directed came to pass. The 
Dual Alliance was signed between Russia and France. Al- 
though the effects were not immediately visible, the Euro- 
pean situation was in fact transformed. Henceforward, for 
the undisputed but soberly exercised predominance of Ger- 
many, there was substituted a balance of power. Two vast 
combinations, each disposing of enormous military resources, 
dwelt together at first side by side but gradually face to face. 

Although the groupings of the great Powers had thus been 
altered sensibly, to the disadvantage of Germany, there was in 
this alteration nothing that threatened her with war. The 
abiding spirit of France had never abandoned the dream of 
recovering the lost provinces, but the prevailing temper of the 
French nation was pacific, and all classes remained under the 
impression of the might of Germany and of the terrible conse- 
quences likely to result from war. 


Moreover, the French were never sure of Russia in a purely 
Franco- German quarrel. True, there was the Treaty; but 
the Treaty to become operative required aggression on the 
part of Germany. What constitutes aggression? At what 
point in a dispute between two heavily armed parties, 
does one side or the other become the aggressor? At any 
rate there was a wide field for discretionary action on the 
part of Russia. Of all these matters she would be the judge, 
and she would be the judge at a moment when it might 
be said that the Russian people would be sent to die in mil- 
lions over a quarrel between France and Germany in which 
they had no direct interest. The word of the Tsar was indeed 
a great assurance. But Tsars who tried to lead their nations, 
however honourably, into unpopular wars might disappear. 
The policy of a great people, if hung too directly upon the 
person of a single individual, was liable to be changed by his 
disappearance. France, therefore, could never feel certain 
that if on any occasion she resisted German pressure and war 
resulted, Russia would march. 

Such was the ponderous balance which had succeeded the 
unquestioned ascendancy of Germany. Outside both systems 
rested England, secure in an overwhelming and as yet unchal- 
lenged, naval supremacy. It was evident that the position of 
the British Empire received added importance from the fact 
that adhesion to either Alliance would decide the predomi- 
nance of strength. But Lord Salisbury showed no wish to 
exploit this favourable situation. He maintained steadily the 
traditional friendly attitude towards Germany combined with 
a cool detachment from Continental entanglements. 

It had been easy for Germany to lose touch with Russia; 
but the alienation of England was a far longer process. So 
many props and ties had successively to be demolished. British 
suspicions of Russia in Asia, the historic antagonism to France, 
memories of Blenheim, of Minden and of Waterloo, the con- 


tinued disputes with France in Egypt and in the Colonial 
sphere, the intimate business connexions between Germany 
and England, the relationship of the Royal Families — all these 
constituted a profound association between the British Empire 
and the leading State in that Triple Alliance. It was no part 
of British policy to obstruct the new-born Colonial aspirations 
of Germany, and in more than one instance, as at Samoa, we 
actively assisted them. With a complete detachment from 
strategic considerations, Lord Salisbury exchanged Heligoland 
for Zanzibar. Still even before the fall of Bismarck the Ger- 
mans did not seem pleasant diplomatic comrades. They ap- 
peared always to be seeking to enlist our aid and reminding 
us that they were our only friend. To emphasise this they 
went even farther. They sought in minor ways to embroil us 
with France and Russia. Each year the Wilhelmstrasse looked 
inquiringly to the Court of St. James's for some new service or 
concession which should keep Germany's diplomatic goodwill 
alive for a further period. Each year they made mischief for 
us with France and Russia, and pointed the moral of how un- 
popular Great Britain was, what powerful enemies she had, 
and how lucky she was to find a friend in Germany. Wftiere 
would she be in the councils of Europe if German assistance 
were withdrawn, or if Germany threw her influence into the 
opposing combination ? These manifestations, prolonged for 
nearly twenty years, produced very definite sensations of 
estrangement in the minds of the rising generation at the 
British Foreign Office. 

But none of these woes of diplomatists deflected the steady 
course of British policy. The Colonial expansion of Germany 
was viewed with easy indifference by the British Empire. 
In spite of their rivalry in trade, there grew up a far more 
important commercial connexion between Britain and Ger- 
many. In Europe we were each other's best customers. 
Even the German Emperor's telegram to President Kruger 
on the Jameson Raid in 1896, which we now know to have 
been no personal act but a decision of the German Gov- 


ernment, produced only a temporary ebullition of anger. All 
the German outburst of rage against England during the Boer 
War, and such attempts as were made to form a European 
coalition against us, did not prevent Mr. Chamberlain in 1901 
from advocating an alliance with Germany, or the British 
Foreign Office from proposing in the same year to make the 
Alliance between Britain and Japan into a Triple Alliance in- 
cluding Germany. During this period we had at least as seri- 
ous differences with France as with Germany, and sufficient 
naval superiority not to be seriously disquieted by either. We 
stood equally clear of the Triple and of the Dual Alliance. We 
had no intention of being drawn into a Continental quarrel. 
No effort by France to regain her lost provinces appealed to 
the British public or to any political party. The idea of a 
British Army fighting in Europe amid the mighty hosts of the 
Continent was by all dismissed as utterly absurd. Only a 
menace to the very life of the British nation would stir the 
British Empire from its placid and tolerant detachment from 
Continental affairs. But that menace Germany was destined 

to supply. 


" Among the Great Powers/' said Moltke in his Military 
Testament, " England necessarily requires a strong ally on 
the Continent. She would not find one which corresponds 
better to all her interests than a United Germany, that can 
never make claim to the command of the sea." 

From 1873 to 1900 the German Navy was avowedly not in- 
tended to provide for the possibility of "a naval war against 
great naval Powers." Now in 1900 came a Fleet Law of a 
very different kind. "For the protection of trade and the Col- 
onies," declared the preamble of this document, " there is only 
one thing that will suffice, namely, a strong Battle Fleet." 

In order to protect German trade and commerce under 
existing conditions, only one thing will suffice, namely, Ger- 
many must possess a battle fleet of such a strength that, 


even for the most powerful naval adversary, a war would 
involve such risks as to make that Power's own supremacy 

For this purpose it is not absolutely necessary that the 
German Fleet should be as strong as that of the greatest 
naval Power, for, as a rule, a great naval Power will not be 
in a position to concentrate all its forces against us. Even if 
it were successful in bringing against us a much superior 
force, the defeat of a strong German Fleet would so consid- 
erably weaken the enemy that, in spite of the victory that 
might be achieved, his own supremacy would no longer be 
assured by a fleet of sufficient strength. 

For the attainment of this object, viz., protection of our 
trade and colonies by assuring peace with honour, Germany 
requires, according to the strength of the great naval Powers 
and with regard to our tactical formations, two double squad- 
rons of first-class battleships, with the necessary attendant 
cruisers, torpedo boats, etc. Since the Fleet Law provides 
for only two squadrons, the construction of third and fourth 
squadrons is proposed. Two of these four squadrons will 
form one fleet. The tactical formation of the second fleet 
should be similar to that of the first as provided for in the 
Fleet Law. 

And again : — 

In addition to the increase of the Home Fleet an increase 
of the foreign service ships is also necessary. ... In order 
to estimate the importance of an increase in our foreign ser- 
vice ships, it must be realised that they represent the German 
Navy abroad, and that to them often falls the task of gather- 
ing fruits which have ripened as a result of the naval strength 
of the Empire embodied in the Home Battle Fleet. 

And again: — 

If the necessity for so strong a Fleet for Germany be 
recognised, it cannot be denied that the honour and welfare of 
the Fatherland authoritatively demand that the Home Fleet 
be brought up to the requisite strength as soon as possible. 


The determination of the greatest military Power on the 
Continent to become at the same time at least the second 


naval Power was an event of first magnitude in world affairs. 
It would, if carried into full effect, undoubtedly reproduce 
those situations which at previous periods in history had 
proved of such awful significance to the Islanders of Britain. 

Hitherto all British naval arrangements had proceeded on 
the basis of the two-Power standard, namely, an adequate 
superiority over the next two- strongest Powers, in those 
days France and Russia. The possible addition of a third 
European Fleet more powerful than either of these two would 
profoundly affect the life of Britain. If Germany was going 
to create a Navy avowedly measured against our own, we 
could not afford to remain "in splendid isolation'' from the 
European systems. We must in these circumstances find a 
trustworthy friend. We found one in another island Empire 
situated on the other side of the globe arid also in danger. 
In 1901 the Alliance was signed between Great Britain and 
Japan. Still less could we afford to have dangerous causes 
of quarrel open both with France and Russia. In 1902 the 
British Government, under Mr. Balfour and Lord Lansdowne, 
definitely embarked upon the policy of settling up our differ- 
ences with France. Still, before either of these steps were 
taken the hand was held out to Germany. She was invited 
to join with us in the alliance with Japan. She was invited 
to make a joint effort to solve the Moroccan problem. Both 
offers were declined. 

In 1904, the war between Russia and Japan broke out. 
Germany sympathised mainly with Russia; England stood 
ready to fulfil her treaty engagements with Japan, while at 
the same time cultivating good relations with France. In 
this posture the Powers awaited the result of the Far East- 
ern struggle. It brought a surprise to all but one. The mili- 
tary and naval overthrow of Russia by Japan and the internal 
convulsions of the Russian State produced profound changes 
in the European situation. Although German influence had 
leaned against Japan, she felt herself enormously strength- 


ened by the Russian collapse. Her Continental predominance 
was restored. Her self-assertion in every sphere became sensi- 
bly and immediately pronounced. France, on the other hand, 
weakened and once again, for the time being, isolated and 
in real danger, became increasingly anxious for an Entente 
with England. England, whose statesmen with penetrating 
eye alone in Europe had truly measured the martial power of 
Japan, gained remarkably in strength and security. Japan, 
her new ally, was triumphant: France, her ancient enemy, 
sought her friendship: the German fleet was still only 
a-building, and meanwhile all the British battleships in 
China seas could now be safely brought home. 

The settlement of outstanding differences between England 
and France proceeded, and at last in 1904 the Anglo-French 
Agreement was signed. There were various clauses; but the 
essence of the compact was that the French desisted from op- 
position to British interests in Egypt, and Britain gave a 
general support to the French views about Morocco. This 
agreement was acclaimed by the Conservative forces in Eng- 
land, among whom the idea of the German menace had al- 
ready taken root. It was also hailed somewhat short-sight- 
edly by Liberal statesmen as a step to secure general peace 
by clearing away misunderstandings and differences with our 
traditional enemy. It was therefore almost universally wel- 
comed. Only one profound observer raised his voice against 
it. "My mournful and supreme conviction," said Lord 
Rosebery, "is that this agreement is much more likely to 
lead to complications than to peace." This unwelcome com- 
ment was indignantly spurned from widely different stand- 
points by both British parties, and general censure fell upon 
its author. 

Still, England and all that she stood for had left her isola- 
tion, and had reappeared in Europe on the opposite side to 


Germany. For the first time since 1870 Germany had to take 
into consideration a Power outside her system which was in 
no way amenable to threats, and was not unable if need be 
to encounter her single-handed. The gesture which was to 
sweep Delcasse from power in 1905, the apparition "in shining 
armour " which was to quell Russia in 1908, could procure no 
such compliance from the independent Island girt with her 
Fleet and mistress of the seas. 

Up to this moment the Triple Alliance had on the whole 
been stronger than France and Russia. Although war against 
these two Powers would have been a formidable undertaking 
for Germany, Austria and Italy, its ultimate issue did not 
seem doubtful. But if the weight of Britain were thrown into 
the adverse scale and that of Italy withdrawn from the other, 
then for the first time since 1870 Germany could not feel cer- 
tain that she was on the stronger side. Would she submit 
to it? Would the growing, bounding ambitions nad asser- 
tions of the new German Empire consent to a situation in 
which, very politely no doubt, very gradually perhaps, but 
still very surely, the impression would be conveyed that her 
will was no longer the final law of Europe ? If Germany and 
her Emperor would accept the same sort of restraint that 
France, Russia and England had long been accustomed to, 
and would live within her rights as an equal in a freer and 
easier world, all would be well. But would she ? Would she 
tolerate the gathering under an independent standard of 
nations outside her system, strong enough to examine her 
claims only as the merits appealed to them, and to resist 
aggression without fear ? The history of the next ten years 
was to supply the answer. 

Side by side with these slowly marshalling and steadily 
arming antagonisms between the greatest Powers, processes 
of degeneration were at work in weaker Empires almost 
equally dangerous to peace. Forces were alive in Turkey 
which threatened with destruction the old regime and its 


abuses on which Germany had chosen to lean. The Christian 
States of the Balkans, growing stronger year by year, awaited 
an opportunity to liberate their compatriots still writhing 
under Turkish misrule. The growth of national sentiment in 
every country created fierce strains and stresses in the uneasily 
knit and crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Balkan 
States saw also in this direction kinsmen to rescue, territory 
to recover, and unities to achieve. Italy watched with ardent 
eyes the decay of Turkey and the unrest of Austria. It was 
certain that from all these regions of the South and of the 
East there would come a succession of events deeply agitating 
both to Russia and to Germany. 

To create the unfavourable conditions for herself in which 
Germany afterwards brought about the war, many acts of 
supreme unwisdom on the part of her rulers were never- 
thelesss .still necessary. France must be kept in a state of 
continued apprehension. The Russian nation, not the Rus- 
sian Court alone, must be stung by some violent affront in- 
flicted in their hour of weakness. The slow, deep, restrained 
antagonism of the British Empire must be roused by the con- 
tinuous and repeated challenge to the sea power by which it 
lived. Then and then only could those conditions be created 
under which Germany by an act of aggression would bring 
into being against her, a combination strong enough to resist 
and ultimately to overcome her might. There was still a long 
road to travel before the Vials of Wrath were full. For ten 
years we were to journey anxiously along that road. 

It was for a time the fashion to write as if the British Gov- 
ernment during these ten years were either entirely uncon- 
scious of the approaching danger or had a load of secret 
matters and deep forebodings on their minds hidden al- 
together from the thoughtless nation. In fact, however, 
neither of these alternatives, taken separately, was true; 


and there is a measure of truth in both of them taken 

The British Government and the Parliaments out of which 
it sprang, did not believe in the approach of a great war, and 
were determined to prevent it; but at the same time the sin- 
ister hypothesis was continually present in their thoughts, 
and was repeatedly brought to the attention of Ministers by 
disquieting incidents and tendencies. 
During the whole of those ten years this duality and dis- 
j cordance were the keynote of British politics; and those whose 
I duty it was to watch over the safety of the country lived 
/ simultaneously in two different worlds of thought. There 
was the actual visible world with its peaceful activities and 
cosmopolitan aims; and there was a hypothetical world, a 
world " beneath the threshold," as it were, a world at one mo- 
ment utterly fantastic, at the next seeming about to leap into 
reality — a world of monstrous shadows moving in convulsive 
combinations through vistas of fathomless catastrophe. 




1 Enmities which are unspoken and hidden are more to be feared 
than those which are outspoken and open.' 


A Narrower Stage — The Victorian Calm — The Chain of Strife — Lord 
Salisbury Retires — Mr. Balfour and the End of an Epoch — Fall 
of the Conservative Government — The General Election of 1906 
— The Algeciras Conference — Anglo-French Military Conversa- 
tions — Mr. Asquith's Administration — The Austrian Annexations 
— The German Threat to Russia — The Admiralty Programme of 
1909 — The Growth of the German Navy — German Finance and 
its Implications — The Inheritance of the New German Chancellor. 

TF the reader is to understand this tale and the point of 
view from which it is told, he should follow the author's 
mind in each principal sphere of causation. He must not only 
be acquainted with the military and naval situations as they 
existed at the outbreak of war, but with the events which led 
up to them. He must be introduced to the Admirals and to 
the Generals; he must study the organisation of the Fleets 
and Armies and the outlines of their strategy by sea and 
land; he must not shrink even from the design of ships and 
cannon; he must extend his view to the groupings and slow- 
growing antagonisms of modern States; he must contract it to 
the humbler but unavoidable warfare of parties and the inter- 
play of political forces and personalities. 

The dramatis persona of the previous Chapter have been 
great States and Empires and its theme their world-wide bal- 
ance and combinations. Now the stage must for a while be 
narrowed to the limits of these islands and occupied by the 



political personages and factions of the time and of the hour. 

In the year 1895 I had the privilege, as a young officer, of 
being invited to lunch with Sir William Harcourt. In the 
course of a conversation in which I took, I fear, none too mod- 
est a share, I asked the question, " What will happen then ?" 
"My dear Winston," replied the old Victorian statesman, " the 
experiences of a long life have convinced me that nothing ever 
happens." Since that moment, as it seems to me, nothing has 
ever ceased happening. The growth of the great antago- 
nisms abroad was accompanied by the progressive aggrava- 
tion of party strife at home. The scale on which events have 
shaped themselves, has dwarfed the episodes of the Victorian 
era. Its small wars between great nations, its earnest dis- 
putes about superficial issues, the high, keen intellectualism of 
its personages, the sober, frugal, narrow limitations of their ac- 
tion, belong to a vanished period. The smooth river with its 
eddies and ripples along which we then sailed, seems incon- 
ceivably remote from the cataract down which we have been 
hurled and the rapids in whose turbulence we are now strug- 

I date the beginning of these violent times in our country 
from the Jameson Raid, in 1896. This was the herald, if not 
indeed the progenitor, of the South African War. From the 
South African War was born the Khaki Election, the Protec- 
tionist Movement, the Chinese Labour cry and the conse- 
quent furious reaction and Liberal triumph of 1906. From this 
sprang the violent inroads of the House of Lords upon popular 
Government, which by the end of 1908 had reduced the im- 
mense Liberal majority to virtual impotence, from which con- 
dition they were rescued by the Lloyd George Budget in 1909. 
This measure became, in its turn, on both sides, the cause of 
still greater provocations, and its rejection by the Lords was a 
constitutional outrage and political blunder almost beyond 
compare. It led directly to the two General Elections of 19 10, 
to the Parliament Act, and to the Irish struggle, in which our 


country was brought to the very threshold of civil war. Thus 
we see a succession of partisan actions continuing without in- 
termission for nearly twenty years, each injury repeated with 
interest, each oscillation more violent, each risk more grave, 
until at last it seemed that the sabre itself must be invoked 
to cool the blood and the passions that were rife. 

In July, 1902, Lord Salisbury retired. With what seems 
now to have been only a brief interlude, he had been Prime 
Minister and Foreign Secretary since 1885. ^ n au< those sev- 
enteen years the Liberal Party had never exercised any effec- 
tive control upon affairs. Their brief spell in office had only 
been obtained by a majority of forty Irish Nationalist votes. 
During thirteen years the Conservatives had enjoyed homoge- 
neous majorities of 100 to 150, and in addition there was the 
House of Lords. This long reign of power had now come to 
an end. The desire for change, the feeling that change was 
impending, was widespread. It was the end of an epoch. 

Lord Salisbury was followed by Mr. Balfour. The new 
Prime Minister never had a fair chance. He succeeded 
only to an exhausted inheritance. Indeed, his wisest course 
would have been to get out of office as decently, as quietly, 
and, above all, as quickly as possible. He could with great 
propriety have declared that the 1900 Parliament had been 
elected on war conditions and on a war issue; that the war 
was now finished successfully; that the mandate was ex- 
hausted and that he must recur to the sense of the electors 
before proceeding farther with his task. No doubt the Lib- 
erals would have come into power, but not by a large majority; 
and they would have been faced by a strong, united Conserva- 
tive Opposition, which in four or five years, about 1907, would 
have resumed effective control of the State. The solid ranks 
of Conservative members who acclaimed Mr. Balfour's ac- 
cession as First Minister were however in no mood to be dis- 


missed to their constituencies when the Parliament was only 
two years old and had still four or five years more to run. 
Mr. Balfour therefore addressed himself to the duties of Gov- 
ernment with a serene indifference to the vast alienation of 
public opinion and consolidation of hostile forces which were 
proceeding all around him. 

Mr. Chamberlain, his almost all-powerful lieutenant, was 
under no illusions. He felt, with an acute political sensi- 
tiveness, the ever-growing strength of the tide setting against 
the ruling combination. But instead of pursuing courses 
of moderation and prudence, he was impelled by the ardour 
of his nature to a desperate remedy. The Government was 
reproached with being reactionary. The moderate Con- 
servatives and the younger Conservatives were all urging 
Liberal and conciliatory processes. The Opposition was 
advancing hopefully towards power, heralded by a storm 
of angry outcry. He would show them, and show doubting 
or weary friends as well, how it was possible to quell indigna- 
tion by violence, and from the very heart of reaction to draw 
the means of popular victory. He unfurled the flag of Pro- 

Time, adversity and the recent Education Act had united 
the Liberals; Protection, or Tariff Reform as it was called, 
split the Conservatives. Ultimately, six Ministers resigned 
and fifty Conservative or Unionist members definitely with- 
drew their support from the Government. Among them were 
a number of those younger men from whom a Party should 
derive new force and driving power, and who are specially 
necessary to it during a period of opposition. The action of 
the Free Trade Unionists was endorsed indirectly by Lord 
Salisbury himself from his retirement, and was actively sus- 
tained by such pillars of the Unionist Party as Sir Michael 
Hicks-Beach and the Duke of Devonshire. No such formi- 
dable loss had been sustained by the Conservative Party since 
the expulsion of the Peelites. 


But if Mr. Balfour had not felt inclined to begin his reign 
by an act of abdication, he was still less disposed to have power 
wrested from his grasp. Moreover, he regarded a Party split 
as the worst of domestic catastrophes, and responsibility for 
it as the unforgivable sin. He therefore laboured with amaz- 
ing patience and coolness to preserve a semblance of unity, 
to calm the tempest, and to hold on as long as possible in the 
hope of its subsiding. With the highest subtlety and ingenu- 
ity he devised a succession of formulas designed to enable 
people who differed profoundly, to persuade themselves they 
were in agreement. When it came to the resignation of Min- 
isters, he was careful to shed Free Trade and Protectionist 
blood as far as possible in equal quantities. Like Henry 
VIII, he decapitated Papists and burned hot Gospellers on 
the same day for their respective divergencies in opposite 
directions from his central, personal and artificial compro- 

In this unpleasant situation Mr. Balfour maintained him- 
self for two whole years. Vain the clamour for a general 
election, vain the taunts of clinging to office, vain the solici- 
tations of friends and the attempts of foes to force a crucial 
issue. The Prime Minister remained immovable, inexhausti- 
ble, imperturbable; and he remained Prime Minister. His 
clear, just mind, detached from small things, stood indifferent 
to the clamour about him. He pursued, as has been related, 
through the critical period of the Russo-Japanese War, a pol- 
icy in support of Japan of the utmost firmness. He resisted 
all temptations, on the other hand, to make the sinking of 
our trawlers on the Dogger Bank by the Russian Fleet an 
occasion of war with Russia. He formed the Committee of 
Imperial Defence — the instrument of our preparedness. He 
carried through the agreement with France of 1904, the mo- 
mentous significance of which the last chapter has explained. 
But in 1905 political Britain cared for none of these things. 
The credit of the Government fell steadily. The process of 


degeneration in the Conservative Party was continuous. 
The storm of opposition grew unceasingly, and so did the uni- 
fication of all the forces opposed to the dying regime. 

Late in November, 1905, Mr. Balfour tendered his resigna- 
tion as Prime Minister to the King. The Government of Sir 
Henry Campbell-Bannerman was formed, and proceeded in 
January to appeal to the constituencies. This Government 
represented both the wings into which the Liberal Party had 
been divided by the Boer War. The Liberal Imperialists, so 
distinguished by their talents, filled some of the greatest offices. 
Mr. Asquith went to the Exchequer; Sir Edward Grey to 
the Foreign Office; Mr. Haldane became Secretary of State 
for War. On the other hand the Prime Minister, who him- 
self represented the main stream of Liberal opinion, ap- 
pointed Sir Robert Reid, Lord Chancellor and Mr. John 
Morley, Secretary of State for India. Both these statesmen, 
while not opposing actual war measures in South Africa, had 
unceasingly condemned the war; and in Mr. Lloyd George and 
Mr. John Burns, both of whom entered the Cabinet, were found 
democratic politicians who had gone even farther. The dig- 
nity of the Administration was enhanced by the venerable fig- 
ures of Lord Ripon, Sir Henry Fowler, and the newly returned 
Viceroy of India, Lord Elgin. L i ht C- ft ^ 

The result of the polls in January, 1906, was a Conservative- 
landslide. Never since the election following the great Re- 
form Bill, had anything comparable occurred in British parlia- 
mentary history. In Manchester, for instance, which was one 
of the principal battle-grounds, Mr. Balfour and eight Con- 
servative colleagues were dismissed and replaced by nine 
Liberals or Labour men. The Conservatives, after nearly 
twenty years of power, crept back to the House of Commons 
barely a hundred and fifty strong. The Liberals had gained 
a majority of more than one hundred over all other parties 
combined. Both great parties harboured deep grievances 
against the other; and against the wrong of the Khaki Elec- 


tion and its misuse, was set the counter-claim of an unfair 
Chinese Labour cry. 


Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was still receiving the re- 
sounding acclamations of Liberals, peace-lovers, anti-jingoes, 
and anti-militarists, in every part of the country, when he 
was summoned by Sir Edward Grey to attend to business 
of a very different character. The Algeciras Conference was 
in its throes. When the Anglo-French Agreement on Egypt 
and Morocco had first been made known, the German Gov- 
ernment accepted the situation without protest or complaint. 
The German Chancellor, Prince Bulow, had even declared in 
1904 that there was nothing in the Agreement to which Ger- 
many could take exception. "What appears to be before 
us is the attempt by the method of friendly understanding 
to eliminate a number of points of difference which exist be- 
tween England and France. We have no objection to make 
against this from the standpoint of German interest." A 
serious agitation most embarrassing to the German Govern- 
ment was, however, set on foot by the Pan- German and 
Colonial parties. Under this pressure the attitude of the 
Government changed, and a year later Germany openly chal- 
lenged the Agreement and looked about for an opportunity 
to assert her claims in Morocco. This opportunity was not 
long delayed. 

Early in 1905 a French mission arrived in Fez. Their 
language and actions seemed to show an intention of treating 
Morocco as a French Protectorate, thereby ignoring the in- 
ternational obligations of the Treaty of Madrid. The Sul- 
tan of Morocco appealed to Germany, asking if France was 
authorised to speak in the name of Europe. Germany was 
now enabled to advance as the champion of an international 
agreement, which she suggested France was violating. Be- 
hind this lay the clear intention to show France that she 
could not afford in consequence of her agreement with Britain, 


to offend Germany. The action taken was of the most drastic 
character. The German Emperor was persuaded to go to 
Tangiers, and there, against his better judgment, on March 
31, 1905, he delivered, in very uncompromising language chosen 
by his ministers, an open challenge to France. To this speech 
the widest circulation was given by the German Foreign Of- 
fice. Hotfoot upon it (April 11 and 12) two very threatening 
despatches were sent to Paris and London, demanding a con- 
ference of all the Signatory Powers to the Treaty of Madrid. 
Every means was used by Germany to make France under- 
stand that if she refused the conference there would be war; 
and to make assurance doubly sure a special envoy 1 was sent 
from Berlin to Paris for that express purpose. 

France was quite unprepared for war; the army was in a 
bad state; Russia was incapacitated; moreover, France had 
not a good case. The French Foreign Minister, Monsieur 
Delcasse, was, however, unwilling to give way. The German 
attitude became still more threatening; and on June 6 the 
French Cabinet of Monsieur Rouvier unanimously, almost at 
the cannon's mouth, accepted the principle of a conference, 
and Monsieur Delcasse at once resigned. 

So far Germany had been very successful. Under a di- 
rect ^threat of war she had compelled France to bow to 
her will, and to sacrifice the Minister who had negotiated 
the Agreement with Great Britain. The Rouvier Cabinet 
sought earnestly for some friendly solution which, while 
sparing France the humiliation of a conference dictated in 
such circumstances, would secure substantial concessions to 
Germany. The German Government were, however, deter- 
mined to exploit their victory to the full, and not to make 
the situation easier for France either before or during the con- 
ference. The conference accordingly assembled at Algeciras 
in January, 1906. 

Great Britain now appeared on the scene, apparently quite 
1 Prince Henckel von Donnesmarck. 



unchanged and unperturbed by her domestic convulsions. 
She had in no way encouraged France to refuse the confer- 
ence. But if a war was to be fastened on France by Ger- 
many as the direct result of an agreement made recently in 
the full light of day between France and Great Britain, it was 
held that Great Britain could not remain indifferent. Sir 
Henry Campbell-Bannerman therefore authorised Sir Edward 
Grey to support France strongly at Algeciras. He also au- 
thorised, almost as the first act of what was to be an era of , 
Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform, the beginning of military 
conversations between the British and French General Staffs 
with a view to concerted action in the event of war. This 
was a step of profound significance and of far-reaching re- 
actions. Henceforward the relations of the two Staffs be- 
came increasingly intimate and confidential. The minds of 
our military men were definitely turned into a particular 
channel. Mutual trust grew continually in one set of military 
relationships, mutual precautions in the other. However 
explicitly the two Governments might agree and affirm to 
each other that no national or political engagement was in- 
volved in these technical discussions, the fact remained that 
they constituted an exceedingly potent tie. 

The attitude of Great Britain at Algeciras turned the scale 
against Germany. Russia, Spain and other signatory Powers 
associated themselves with France and England. Austria 
revealed to Germany the limits beyond which she would not 
go. Thus Germany found herself isolated, and what she 
had gained by her threats of war evaporated at the Council 
Board. In the end a compromise suggested by Austria, en- 
abled Germany to withdraw without open loss of dignity. 
From these events, however, serious consequences flowed. 
Both the two systems into which Europe was divided, were 
crystallised and consolidated. Germany felt the need of 
binding Austria more closely to her. Her open attempt to 
terrorise France had produced a deep impression upon French 


public opinion. An immediate and thorough reform of the 
French Army was carried out, and the Entente with England 
was strengthened and confirmed. Algeciras was a milestone 
on the road to Armageddon. 

The illness and death of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman at 
the beginning of 1908 opened the way for Mr. Asquith. The 
Chancellor of the Exchequer had been the First Lieutenant of 
the late Prime Minister, and, as his chief's strength failed, 
had more and more assumed the burden. He had charged 
himself with the conduct of the new Licensing Bill which was 
to be the staple of the Session of 1908, and in virtue of this 
task he could command the allegiance of an extreme and doc- 
trinaire section of his Party from whom his Imperialism had 
previously alienated him. He resolved to ally to himself the 
democratic gifts and rising reputation of Mr. Lloyd George. 
Thus the succession passed smoothly from hand to hand. Mr. 
Asquith became Prime Minister; Mr. Lloyd George became 
Chancellor of the Exchequer and the second man in the Gov- 
ernment. The new Cabinet, like the old, was a veiled coali- 
tion. A very distinct line of cleavage was maintained between 
the Radical-Pacifist elements who had followed Sir Henry 
Campbell-Bannerman and constituted the bulk both of the 
Cabinet and the Party on the one hand, and the Liberal 
Imperialist wing on the other. Mr. Asquith, as Prime Min- 
ister, had now to take an impartial position; but his heart 
and sympathies were always with Sir Edward Grey, the 
War Office and the Admiralty, and on every important oc- 
casion when he was forced to reveal himself, he definitely 
sided with them. He was not, however, able to give Sir Ed- 
ward Grey the same effectual countenance, much as he might 
wish to do so, that Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman had 
done. The old chief's word was law to the extremists of 
his Party. They would accept almost anything from him. 


They were quite sure he would do nothing more in matters 
of foreign policy and defence than was absolutely necessary, 
and that he would do it in the manner least calculated to 
give satisfaction to jingo sentiments. Mr. Asquith, however, 
had been far from "sound" about the Boer War, and was the 
lifelong friend of the Foreign Secretary, who had wandered 
even further from the straight path into patriotic pastures. 
He was therefore in a certain sense suspect, and every step 
he took in external affairs was watched with prim vigilance 
by the Elders. If the military conversations with France 
had not been authorised by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, 
and if his political virtue could not be cited in their justifica- 
tion, I doubt whether they could have been begun or con- 
tinued by Mr. Asquith. 

Since I had crossed the Floor of the House in 1904 on the 
Free Trade issue, I had worked in close political association 
with Mr. Lloyd George. He was the first to welcome me. 
We sat and acted together in the period of opposition preced- 
ing Mr. Balfour's fall, and we had been in close accord 
during Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's administration, in 
which I had served as Under-Secretary of State for the Col- 
onies. This association continued when I entered the new / 
Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade, and in general,^/ 
though from different angles, we leaned to the side of those 
who would restrain the froward both in foreign policy and in 
armaments. It must be understood that these differences of 
attitude and complexion, which in varying forms reproduce 
themselves in every great and powerful British Administration, 
in no way prevented harmonious and agreeable relations be- 
tween the principal personages, and our affairs proceeded amid 
many amenities in an atmosphere of courtesy, friendliness 

and goodwill. 


It was not long before the next European crisis arrived. 
On October 5, 1908, Austria, without warning or parley, 


proclaimed the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 
These provinces of the Turkish Empire had been admin- 
istered by her under the Treaty of Berlin, 1878; and the an- 
nexation only declared in form what already existed in fact. 
The Young Turk Revolution which had occurred in the 
summer, seemed to Austria likely to lead to a reassertion of 
Turkish sovereignty over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and this 
she was concerned to forestall. A reasonable and patient 
diplomacy would probably have secured for Austria the ease- 
ments which she needed. Indeed, negotiations with Russia, 
the Great Power most interested, had made favourable prog- 
ress. But suddenly and abruptly Count Aerenthal, the Aus- 
trian Foreign Minister, interrupted the discussions by the 
announcement of the annexation, before the arrangements 
for a suitable concession to Russia had been concluded. By 
this essentially violent act a public affront was put upon 
Russia, and a personal slight upon the Russian negotiator, 
Monsieur Isvolsky. 

A storm of anger and protest arose on all sides. England, 
basing herself on the words of the London Conference in 
187 1, "That it is an essential principle of the law of nations 
that no Power can free itself from the engagements of a 
Treaty, nor modify its stipulations except by consent of the 
contracting parties," refused to recognise either the annexa- 
tion of Bosnia and Herzegovina or the declaration of Bul- 
garian independence which had synchronised with it. Turkey 
protested loudly against a lawless act. An effective boycott 
of Austrian merchandise was organised by the Turkish Gov- 
ernment. The Serbians mobilised their army. But it was 
the effect on Russia which was most serious. The bitter 
animosity excited against Austria throughout Russia became 
a penultimate cause of the Great War. In this national quar- 
rel the personal differences of Aerenthal and Isvolsky played 
also their part. 

Great Britain and Russia now demanded a conference, 


declining meanwhile to countenance what had been done. 
Austria, supported by Germany, refused. The danger of 
some violent action on the part of Serbia became acute. Sir 
Edward jfrrpy^ q.ftpr making i f- clear that Great Brita in would 
~hot be drawn into a war on a Balkan quarrel, laboured to re- 
"stfain Serbia, to pacify Turkey, and to give full diplomatic 
support to Russia. The controversy dragged on till April, 
1909, when it was ended in the following remarkable manner. 
The Austrians had determined, unless Serbia recognised the 
annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to send an ultimatum 
and to declare war upon her. At this point the German 
Chancellor, Prince von Biilow, intervened. Russia, he in- 
sisted, should herself advise Serbia to give way. The Powers 
should officially recognise the annexation without a confer- 
ence being summoned and without any kind of compensation 
to Serbia. Russia was to give her consent to this action, with- 
out previously informing the British or French Governments. 
If Russia did not consent, Austria would declare war on 
Serbia with the full and complete support of Germany. Russia, 
thus nakedly confronted by war both with Austria and Ger- 
many, collapsed under the threat, as France had done three 
years before. England was left an isolated defender of the 
sanctity of Treaties and the law of nations. The Teutonic 
triumph was complete. But it was a victory gained at a 
perilous cost. France, after her treatment in 1905, had begun 
a thorough military reorganisation. Now Russia, in 19 10, 
made an enormous increase in her already vast army; and 
both Russia and France, smarting under similar experiences, 
closed their ranks, cemented their alliance, and set to work 
to construct with Russian labour and French money the new 
strategic railway systems of which Russia's western frontier 

stood in need. 


It was next the turn of Great Britain to feel the pressure 
of the German power. 


In the spring of 1909, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. 
McKenna, suddenly demanded the construction of no less 
than six Dreadnought battleships. He based this claim on 
the rapid growth of the German Fleet and its expansion and 
acceleration under the new naval law of 1908, which was 
causing the Admiralty the greatest anxiety. I was still a 
sceptic about the danger of the European situation, and not 
convinced by the Admiralty case. In conjunction with the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, I proceeded at once to canvas 
this scheme and to examine the reasons by which it was sup- 
ported. The conclusions which we both reached were that a 
programme of four ships would sufficiently meet our needs. 
In this process I was led to analyse minutely the character 
and composition of the British and German Navies, actual 
and prospective. I could not agree with the Admiralty con- 
tention that a dangerous situation would be reached in the 
year 191 2. I found the Admiralty figures on this subject 
were exaggerated. I did not believe that the Germans were 
building Dreadnoughts secretly in excess of their published 
Fleet Laws. I held that our margin in pre-Dreadnought ships 
would, added to a new programme of four Dreadnoughts, as- 
sure us an adequate superiority in 191 2, "the danger year" 
as it was then called. In any case, as the Admiralty only 
claimed to lay down the fifth and sixth ships in the last month 
of the financial year, i. e., March, 19 10, these could not af- 
fect the calculations. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and 
I therefore proposed that four ships should be sanctioned for 
1909, and that the additional two should be considered in 
relation to the programme of 19 10. 

Looking back on the voluminous papers of this controversy 
in the light of what actually happened, there can be no doubt 
whatever that, so far as facts and figures were concerned, we 
were strictly right. The gloomy Admiralty anticipations were 
in no respect fulfilled in the year 191 2. The British margin 
was found to be ample in that year. There were no secret 


German Dreadnoughts, nor had Admiral von Tirpitz made 
any untrue statement in respect of major construction. 

The dispute in the Cabinet gave rise to a fierce agitation 
outside. The process of the controversy led to a sharp rise of 
temperature. The actual points in dispute never came to an 
issue. Genuine alarm was excited throughout the country 
by what was for the first time widely recognised as a German 
menace. In the end a curious and characteristic solution was 
reached. The Admiralty had demanded six ships: the econ- 
omists offered four: and we finally compromised on eight. 
However, five out of the eight were not ready before "the 
danger year" of rg)i2 had passed peacefully away. 

But although the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I were 
right in the narrow sense, we were absolutely wrong in rela- 
tion to the deep tides of destiny. The greatest credit is due 
to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. McKenna, for the 
resolute and courageous manner in which he fought his case 
and withstood his Party on this occasion. Little did I think, 
as this dispute proceeded, that when the next Cabinet crisis 
about the Navy arose our roles would be reversed; and little 
did he think that the ships for which he contended so stoutly 
would eventually, when they arrived, be welcomed with open 
arms by me. 

Whatever differences might be entertained about the exact 
number of ships required in a particular year, the British 
nation in general became conscious of the undoubted fact 
that Germany proposed to reinforce her unequalled army by 
a navy which in 1920 would be far stronger than anything up 
to the present possessed by Great Britain. To the Navy 
Law of 1900 had succeeded the amending measure of 1906; 
and upon the increases of 1906 had followed those of 1908. 
In a flamboyant speech at Reval in 1904 the German Emperor 
had already styled himself, "The Admiral of the Atlantic." 
All sorts of sober-minded people in England began to be pro- 
foundly disquieted. What did Germany want this great 



navy for? Against whom, except us, could she measure it, 
match it, or use it ? There was a deep and growing feeling, 
no longer confined to political and diplomatic circles, that 
the Prussians meant mischief, that they envied the splendour 
of the British Empire, and that if they saw a good chance at 
our expense, they would take full advantage of it. Moreover 
it began to be realised that it was no use trying to turn Ger- 
many from her course by abstaining from counter measures. 
Reluctance on our part to build ships was attributed in Ger- 
many to want of national spirit, and as another proof that 
the virile race should advance to replace the effete over- 
civilised and pacifist society which was no longer capable of 
sustaining its great place in the world's affairs. No one 
could run his eyes down the series of figures of British and 
German construction for the first three years of the Liberal 
Administration, without feeling in presence of a dangerous, 
if not a malignant, design. 

In 1905 Britain built 4 ships, and Germany 2. 

In 1906 Britain decreased her programme to 3 ships, and 
Germany increased her programme to 3 ships. 

In 1907 Britain further decreased her programme to 2 ships, 
and Germany further increased her programme to 4 ships. 

These figures are monumental. 

It was impossible to resist the conclusion, gradually forced 
on nearly every one, that if the British Navy lagged behind, 
the gap would be very speedily filled. 

As President of the Board of Trade I was able to obtain a 
general view of the structure of German finance. In 1909 a 
most careful report was prepared by my direction on the 
whole of this subject. Its study was not reassuring. I cir- 
culated it to the Cabinet with the following covering min- 
ute: — 


November 3, 1909. 

BELIEVING that there are practically no checks upon 
German naval expansion except those imposed by the in- 
creasing difficulties of getting money, I have had the enclosed 
report prepared with a view to showing how far those limita- 
tions are becoming effective. It is clear that they are becom- 
ing terribly effective. The overflowing expenditure of the 
German Empire strains and threatens every dyke by which 
the social and political unity of Germany is maintained. 
The high customs duties have been largely rendered inelastic 
through commercial treaties, and cannot meet the demand. 
The heavy duties upon food-stuffs, from which the main pro- 
portion of the customs revenue is raised, have produced a 
deep cleavage between the agrarians and the industrials, and 
the latter deem themselves quite uncompensated for the high 
price of food-stuffs by the most elaborate devices of protec- 
tion for manufactures. The splendid possession of the State 
railways is under pressure being continually degraded to a 
mere instrument of taxation. The field of direct taxation is 
already largely occupied by State and local systems. The 
prospective inroad by the universal suffrage Parliament of 
the Empire upon this depleted field unites the propertied 
classes, whether Imperialists or State-right men, in a com- 
mon apprehension, with which the governing authorities are 
not unsympathetic. On the other hand, the new or increased 
taxation on every form of popular indulgence powerfully 
strengthens the parties of the Left, who are themselves the 
opponents of expenditure on armaments and much else be- 

Meanwhile the German Imperial debt has more than dou- 
bled in the last thirteen years of unbroken peace, has risen 
since the foundation of the Empire to about £220,000,000, 
has increased in the last ten years by £105,000,000, and 
practically no attempt to reduce it has been made between 
1880 and the present year. The effect of recurrent borrow- 
ings to meet ordinary annual expenditure has checked the 
beneficial process of foreign investment, and dissipated the 
illusion, cherished during the South African War, that Berlin 
might supplant London as the lending centre of the world. 
The credit of the German Empire has fallen to the level of 
that of Italy. It is unlikely that the new taxes which have 


been imposed with so much difficulty this year will meet the 
annual deficit. 

These circumstances force the conclusion that a period of 
severe internal strain approaches in Germany. Will the ten- 
sion be relieved by moderation or snapped by calculated vio- 
lence? Will the policy of the German Government be to 
soothe the internal situation, or to find an escape from it in 
external adventure ? There can be no doubt that both courses 
are open. Low as the credit of Germany has fallen, her bor- 
rowing powers are practically unlimited. But one of the two 
courses must be taken soon, and from that point of view it is 
of the greatest importance to gauge the spirit of the new 
administration from the outset. If it be pacific, it must soon 
become markedly pacific, and conversely. w 9 r 

This is, I think, the first sinister impression that I was ever 

led to record. 

* * • * * * 

We have now seen how within the space of five years 
Germany's policy and the growth of her armaments led her 
to arouse and alarm most profoundly three of the greatest 
Powers in the world. Two of them, France and Russia, had 
been forced to bow to the German will by the plain threat 
of war. Each had been quelled by the open intention of a 
neighbour to use force against them to the utmost limit with- 
out compunction. Both felt they had escaped a bloody or- 
deal and probable disaster only by submission. The sense of 
past humiliation was aggravated by the fear of future af- 
fronts. The third Power — unorganised for war, but inac- 
cessible and not to be neglected in the world's affairs — Britain, 
had also been made to feel that hands were being laid upon 
the very foundation of her existence. Swiftly, surely, me- 
thodically, a German Navy was coming into being at our 
doors which must expose us to dangers only to be warded off 
by strenuous exertions, and by a vigilance almost as tense as 
that of actual war. As France and Russia increased their 
armies, so Britain under the same pressure increased her 


fleet. Henceforward the three disquieted nations will act 
more closely together and will not be taken by their adver- 
sary one by one. Henceforward their military arrangements 
will be gradually concerted. Henceforward they will con- 
sciously be facing a common danger. 

Ah ! foolish-diligent Germans, working so hard, thinking 
so deeply, marching and counter-marching on the parade 
grounds of the Fatherland, poring over long calculations, 
fuming in new found prosperity, discontented amid the splen- 
dour of mundane success, how many bulwarks to your peace 
and glory did you not, with your own hands, successively tear 
down ! 

"In the year 1909," writes von Bethmann-Hollweg, then 
the successor of Prince von Biilow, "the situation was based 
on the fact that England had firmly taken its stand on the 
side of France and Russia in pursuit of its traditional policy 
of opposing whatever Continental Power for the time being 
was the strongest; and that Germany held fast to its naval 
programme, had given a definite direction to its Eastern 
policy, and had moreover to guard against a French antag- 
onism that had in no wise been mitigated by its policy in 
later years. And if Germany saw a formidable aggravation 
of all the aggressive tendencies of Franco-Russian policy in 
England's pronounced friendship with this Dual Alliance, 
England on its side had grown to see a menace in the strength- 
ening of the German Fleet and a violation of its ancient rights 
in our Eastern policy. Words had already passed on both 
sides. The atmosphere was chilly and clouded with distrust." 
Such, in his own words, was the inheritance of the new Ger- 
man Chancellor. 

He was now to make his own contribution to the anxieties 
of the world. 




On the idle hill of summer, 

Sleepy with the sound of streams, 

Far I hear the steady drummer 
Drumming like a noise in dreams. 

Far and near and low and louder, 

On the roads of earth go by, 
Dear to friends and food for powder, 

Soldiers marching, all to die. 

The Shropshire Lad, XXXV. 

Agadir — The Panther — The Alarm Bells of Europe — Sir Edward 
Grey's Warning — The Period of Silence — Situation in the Cabinet 
— Decision of the Chancellor of the Exchequer — His Mansion 
House Speech — The German Rejoinder — Naval Precautions — 
Effect of the Mansion House Speech on German Policy — British 
Apprehensions of Attack — The Naval Magazines — Vulnerable 
Points — The Military Situation — Sir Henry Wilson — A Talk 
with the German Ambassador — Count Metternich — The Old 
Diplomacy — Meeting of the Committee of Imperial Defence, 
August 23 — Sir Henry Wilson's Forecast — Admiralty Views — 
Divergences Between the Generals and Admirals — My Memo- 
randum of August 13 — The Twentieth Day — The Fortieth Day 
— Plans for Army Expansion — Continued Anxiety — My Letter 
to Sir Edward Grey, August 30 — End of the Crisis — Conse- 
quences in Germany — The Prime Minister Invites Me to Go to 
the Admiralty — The Ninth Chapter of Deuteronomy. 

TN the spring of 191 1 a French expedition occupied Fez. 
■*• This action, added to the growing discontent in Ger- 
many over the Moroccan question, tempted the German 
Government at the beginning of July to an abrupt act. The 
Brothers Mannesmann, a German firm at that time very 
active in European financial circles, claimed that they had 



large interests in a harbour on the Atlantic seaboard of the 
Moroccan Coast and in the hinterland behind it. This har- 
bour bore the name of Agadir. Herr von Kiderlen-Wachter, 
the German Foreign Minister, raised this point with the 
French. The French Government fully realised that the ad- 
vantages they were gaining in Morocco, justified Germany in 
seeking certain colonial compensations in the Congo area. 
The German press on the other hand was indignant at ex- 
changing German interests in the moderate climate of Mo- 
rocco for unhealthy tropical regions of which they had already 
more than enough. The questions involved were complicated 
and intrinsically extremely unimportant. The French pre- 
pared themselves for a prolonged negotiation. So far as the 
harbour and hinterland of Agadir were concerned, there 
seemed to be no difficulty. They denied altogether the exist- 
ence of any German interests there. They said there was only 
a sandy bay untouched by the hand of man; there was no 
German property on the shore, not a trading establishment, 
not a house; there were no German interests in the interior. 
But these facts could easily be ascertained by a visit of ac- 
credited representatives of both countries. Such a visit to 
ascertain the facts they professed themselves quite ready to 
arrange. They also courted a discussion of the frontier of the 
Congo territories. 

Suddenly and unexpectedly, on the morning of July 1, with- 
out more ado, it was announced that His Imperial Majesty 
the German Emperor had sent his gunboat the Panther to 
Agadir to maintain and protect German interests. This small 
ship was already on its way. All the alarm bells throughout 
Europe began immediately to quiver. France found herself 
in the presence of an act which could not be explained, the 
purpose behind which could not be measured. Great Britain, 
having consulted the atlas, began to wonder what bearing 
a German naval base on the Atlantic coast of Africa would 
have upon her maritime security, "observing/' as the sailors 


say when they have to write official letters to each other, 
that such a fact must be taken in conjunction with Ger- 
man activities at Madeira and in the Canaries and with the 
food routes and trade routes from South America and South 
Africa which converged and passed through these waters. 
Europe was uneasy. France was genuinely alarmed. When 
Count Metternich apprised Sir Edward Grey of the German 
action, he was informed that the situation was so important 
that it must be considered by the Cabinet. On July 5th, after 
the Cabinet, he was told that the British Government could 
not disinterest themselves in Morocco, and that until Ger- 
many's intentions were made known their attitude must re- 
main one of reserve. From that date until July 21 not one 
word was spoken by the German Government. There is no 
doubt that the decided posture of Great Britain was a great 
surprise to the German Foreign Office. There ensued between 
the Governments what was called at the time "the period 
of silence." Meanwhile the French and German newspapers 
carried on a lively controversy, and the British press wore a 
very sombre air. 

It was difficult to divine from the long strings of telegrams 
which day after day flowed in from all the European Chan- 
celleries, what was the real purpose behind the German 
action. I followed attentively the repeated discussions on 
the subject in the British Cabinet. Was Germany looking 
for a pretext of war with France, or was she merely trying by 
pressure and uncertainty to improve her colonial position ? 
In the latter case the dispute would no doubt be adjusted after 
a period of tension, as so many had been before. The great 
Powers marshalled on either side, preceded and protected by 
an elaborate cushion of diplomatic courtesies and formalities, 
would display to each other their respective arrays. In the 
forefront would be the two principal disputants, Germany and 
France, and echeloned back on either side at varying distances 
and under veils of reserves and qualifications of different 


density, would be drawn up the other parties to the Triple Al- 
liance and to what was already now beginning to be called the 
Triple Entente. At the proper moment these seconds or sup- 
porters would utter certain cryptic words indicative of their 
state of mind, as a consequence of which France or Germany 
would step back or forward a very small distance or perhaps 
move slightly to the right or to the left. When these delicate 
rectifications in the great balance of Europe, and indeed of 
the world, had been made, the formidable assembly would 
withdraw to their own apartments with ceremony and saluta- 
tions and congratulate or condole with each other in whispers 
on the result. We had seen it several times before. 

But even this process was not free from danger. One must 
think of the intercourse of the nations in those days not as if 
they were chessmen on the board, or puppets dressed in finery 
and frillings grimacing at each other in a quadrille, but as pro- 
digious organisations of forces active or latent which, like 
planetary bodies, could not approach each other in space with- 
out giving rise to profound magnetic reactions. If they got 
too near, the lightnings would begin to flash, and beyond a 
certain point they might be attracted altogether from the or- 
bits in which they were restrained and draw each other into 
dire collision. The task of diplomacy was to prevent such dis- 
asters; and as long as there was no conscious or subconscious 
purpose of war in the mind of any Power or race, diplomacy 
would probably succeed. But in such grave and delicate con- 
junctions one violent move by any party would rupture and de- 
range the restraints upon all, and plunge Cosmos into Chaos. 

I thought myself that the Germans had a certain grievance 
about the original Anglo-French agreement. We had re- 
ceived many conveniences in Egypt. France had gained great 
advantages in Morocco. If Germany felt her relative posi- 
tion prejudiced by these arrangements, there was no reason 
why patiently and amicably she should not advance and press 
her own point of view. And it seemed to me that Britain, 


the most withdrawn, the least committed of the Great Powers, 
might exercise a mitigating and a modifying influence and pro- 
cure an accommodation; and that of course was what we tried 
to do. But if Germany's intention were malignant, no such 
process would be of the slightest use. In that event a very 
decided word would have to be spoken, and spoken before it 
was too late. Nor would our withdrawing altogether from the 
scene have helped matters. Had we done so all our restrain- 
ing influence would have vanished, and an intenser aggrava- 
tion of the antagonistic forces must have occurred. There- 
fore I read all the papers and telegrams which began to pass 
with a suspicion, and I could see beneath the calm of Sir 
Edward Grey a growing and at some moments a grave anxiety. 

The sultry obscurity of the European situation was compli- 
cated by the uncertain play of forces within our own council 
chamber. There again in miniature were reproduced the bal- 
ances and reserves of the external diplomatic situation. The 
Ministers who were conducting the foreign policy of Britain, 
with the ponderous trident of sea power towering up behind 
them, were drawn entirely from the Liberal Imperialist sec- 
tion of the Government. They were narrowly watched and 
kept in equipoise by the Radical element, which included the 
venerable figures of Lord Morley and Lord Loreburn, on whose 
side the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I had usually leaned. 
It was clear that this equipoise might easily make it impossible 
for Great Britain to speak with a decided voice either on one 
side or the other if certain dangerous conditions supervened. 
We should not, therefore, either keep clear ourselves by with- 
drawing from the danger nor be able by resolute action to 
ward it off in time. In these circumstances the attitude of the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer became of peculiar importance. 

For some weeks he offered no indication of what his line 
would be, and in our numerous conversations he gave me the 
impression of being sometimes on one side and sometimes on 
the other. But on the morning of July 21, when I visited him 


before the Cabinet, I found a different man. His mind was 
made up. He saw quite clearly the course to take. He knew 
what to do and how and when to do it. The tenor of his state- 
ment to me was that we were drifting into war. He dwelt on 
the oppressive silence of Germany so far as we were concerned. 
He pointed out that Germany was acting as if England did 
not count in the matter in any way; that she had completely 
ignored our strong representation; that she was proceeding to 
put the most severe pressure on France; that a catastrophe 
might ensue; and that if it was to be averted we must speak 
with great decision, and we must speak at once. He told me 
that he was to address the Bankers at their Annual Dinner 
that evening, and that he intended to make it clear that if 
Germany meant war, she would find Britain against her. He 
showed me what he had prepared, and told me that he would 
show it to the Prime Minister and Sir Edward Grey after the 
Cabinet. What would they say ? I said that of course they 
would be very much relieved; and so they were, and so was I. 
The accession of Mr. Lloyd George in foreign policy to the 
opposite wing of the Government was decisive. We were able 
immediately to pursue a firm and coherent policy. That 
night at the Bankers' Association the Chancellor of the Ex- 
chequer used the following words: — 

I believe it is essential in the highest interests not merely cf 
this country, but of the world, that Britain should at all haz- 
ards maintain her place and her prestige amongst the Great 
Powers of the world. Her potent influence has many a time 
been in the past, and may yet be in the future, invaluable to 
the cause of human liberty. It has more than once in the past 
redeemed continental nations, who are sometimes too apt to 
forget that service, from overwhelming disaster and even from 
national extinction. I would make great sacrifices to preserve 
peace. I conceive that nothing would justify a disturbance of 
international goodwill except questions of the gravest national 
moment. But if a situation were to be forced upon us in 
which peace could only be preserved by the surrender of the 


great and beneficent position Britain has won by centuries of 
heroism and achievement, by allowing Britain to be treated 
where her interests were vitally affected as if she were of no 
account in the Cabinet of nations, then I say emphatically that 
peace at that price would be a humiliation intolerable for a 
great country like ours to endure. 

His City audience, whose minds were obsessed with the 
iniquities of the Lloyd George Budget and the fearful hard- 
ships it had inflicted upon property and wealth — little did 
they dream of the future — did not comprehend in any way the 
significance or the importance of what they heard. They took 
it as if it had been one of the ordinary platitudes of ministerial 
pronouncements upon foreign affairs. But the Chancelleries 
of Europe bounded together. 

Four days later, at about 5.30 in the afternoon, the Chan- 
cellor of the Exchequer and I were walking by the fountains 
of Buckingham Palace. Hot-foot on our track came a mes- 
senger. Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer go at once to 
Sir Edward Grey ? Mr. Lloyd George stopped abruptly and 
turning to me said, "That's my speech. The Germans may 
demand my resignation as they did Delcasse's." I said, 
"That will make you the most popular man in England" (he 
was not actually the most popular at that time) . We returned 
as fast as we could and found Sir Edward Grey in his room at 
the House of Commons. His first words were: "I have just 
received a communication from the German Ambassador so 
stiff that the Fleet might be attacked at any moment. I have 
sent for McKenna to warn him !" He then told us briefly of 
the conversation he had just had with Count Metternich. The 
Ambassador had said that after the speech of the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer no explanation could be made by Germany. 
In acrid terms he had stated that if France should repel the 
hand offered her by the Emperor's Government, the dignity 
of Germany would compel her to secure by all means full re- 
spect by France for German treaty rights. He had then read 


a long complaint about Mr. Lloyd George's speech " which to 
say the least could have been interpreted as a warning to Ger- 
many's address and which as a matter of fact had been inter- 
preted by the presses of Great Britain and France as a warning 
bordering on menace." Sir Edward Grey had thought it 
right to reply that the tone of the communication which had 
just been read to him, rendered it inconsistent with the dignity 
of His Majesty's Government to give explanations with regard 
to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The First 
Lord arrived while we were talking, and a few minutes later 
hurried off to send the warning orders. — 

They sound so very cautious and correct, these deadly 
words. Soft, quiet voices purring, courteous, grave, exactly- 
measured phrases in large peaceful rooms. But with less 
L warning cannons had opened fire and nations had been struck^ 
down by this same Germany. So now the Admiralty wireless 
whispers through the ether to the tall masts of ships, and cap- 
tains pace their decks absorbed in thought. It is nothing. It 
is less than nothing. It is too foolish, too fantastic to be 
thought of in the twentieth century. Or is it fire and murder 
leaping out of the darkness at our throats, torpedoes ripping 
the bellies of half-awakened ships, a sunrise on a vanished 
naval supremacy, and an island well guarded hitherto, at last 
defenceless ? No, it is nothing. No one would do such things. 
Civilisation has climbed above such perils. The interdepen- 
dence of nations in trade and traffic, the sense of public law, the 
Hague Convention, Liberal principles, the Labour Party, high 
finance, Christian charity, common sense have rendered such 
nightmares impossible. Are you quite sure ? It would be a 
pity to be wrong. Such a mistake could only be made once — 
once for all. 

The Mansion House speech was a surprise to all countries: 
it was a thunder-clap to the German Government. All their 
information had led them to believe that Mr. Lloyd George 
would head the peace party and that British action would be 


neutralised. Jumping from one extreme to another, they 
now assumed that the British Cabinet was absolutely united, 
and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer of all others had 
been deliberately selected as the most Radical Minister by 
the British Government to make this pronouncement. 1 They 
could not understand how their representatives and agents in 
Great Britain could have been so profoundly misled. Their 
vexation proved fatal to Count Metternich, and at the first 
convenient opportunity he was recalled. Here was an Ambas- 
sador who, after ten years' residence in London, could not even 
forecast the action of one of the most powerful Ministers on a 
question of this character. It will be seen from what has been 
written that this view was hard on Count Metternich. How 
could he know what Mr. Lloyd George was going to do ? Un- 
til a few hours before, his colleagues did not know. Working 
with him in close association, I did not know. No one knew. 
Until his mind was definitely made up, he did not know him- 

It seems probable now that the Germans did not mean war 
on this occasion. But they meant to test the ground; and in 
so doing they were prepared to go to the very edge of the 
precipice. It is so easy to lose one's balance there: a touch, 
a gust of wind, a momentary dizziness, and all is precipitated 
into the abyss. But whether in the heart of the German State 
there was or was not a war purpose before England's part 
had been publicly declared, there was no such intention after- 

After the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and its 

1 Von Tirpitz's account is quite direct. "At his [von Kiderlen- 
Wachter's] suggestion the Chancellor dispatched the gunboat Pan- 
ther to the Moroccan port Agadir on July i, ion, and left the British 
Government, when it asked the reason, completely in the dark and 
without a reply for many weeks. The result was that on July 21 Lloyd 
George delivered a speech which had been drawn up in the British 
Cabinet, in which he warned Germany that she would End British 
power on the side of France in the event of a challenge." 


sequel the German Government could not doubt that Great 
Britain would be against them if a war was forced upon France 
at this juncture. They did not immediately recede from their 
position, but they were most careful to avoid any fresh act 
of provocation; and all their further conduct of the negotia- 
tions with France tended to open in one direction or another 
paths of accommodation and of retreat. It remained ex- 
tremely difficult for us to gauge the exact significance of the 
various points at issue, and throughout the months of July, 
August and September the situation continued obscure and 
oppressive. The slight yet decisive change which came over 
the character of German diplomacy, was scarcely perceptible, 
and at the same time certain precautionary military measures 
which were taken behind the German frontiers, so far as they 
were known to us, had the effect of greatly increasing our 
anxiety. In consequence the atmosphere in England became 
constantly more heavily charged with electricity as one hot 
summer's day succeeded another. 

Hitherto as Home Secretary I had not had any special part 
to play in this affair, though I had followed it with the utmost 
attention as a Member of the Cabinet. I was now to receive 
a rude shock. On the afternoon of July 27 th, I attended a 
garden party at 10 Downing Street. There I met the Chief 
Commissioner of Police, Sir Edward Henry. We talked about 
the European situation, and I told him that it was serious. He 
then remarked that by an odd arrangement the Home Office 
was responsible, through the Metropolitan Police, for guard- 
ing the magazines at Chattenden and Lodge Hill in which all 
the reserves of naval cordite were stored. For many years 
these magazines had been protected without misadventure by 
a few constables. I asked what would happen if twenty deter- 
mined Germans in two or three motor cars arrived well armed 
upon the scene one night. He said they would be able to do 
what they liked. I quitted the garden party. 

A few minutes later I was telephoning from my room in the 


Home Office to the Admiralty. Who was in charge ? The 
First Lord was with the Fleet at Cromarty; the First Sea 
Lord was inspecting. Both were, of course, quickly accessible 
by wireless or wire. In the meantime an Admiral (he shall 
be nameless) was in control. I demanded Marines at once to 
guard these magazines, vital to the Royal Navy. I knew there 
were plenty of marines in the depots at Chatham and Ports- 
mouth. The admiral replied over the telephone that the 
Admiralty had no responsibility and had no intention of as- 
suming any; and it was clear from his manner that he resented 
the intrusion of an alarmist civilian Minister. "You refuse 
then to send the Marines ? " After some hesitation he replied, 
"I refuse." I replaced the receiver and rang up the War 
Office. Mr. Haldane was there. I told him that I was rein- 
forcing and arming the police that night, and asked for a 
company of infantry for each magazine in addition. In a 
few minutes the orders were given: in a few hours the troops 
had moved. By the next day the cordite reserves of the navy 
were safe. 

The incident was a small one, and perhaps my fears were 
unfounded. But once one had begun to view the situation in 
this light, it became impossible to think of anything else. All 
around flowed the busy life of peaceful, unsuspecting, easy- 
going Britain. The streets were thronged with men and wo- 
men utterly devoid of any sense of danger from abroad. For 
nearly a thousand years no foreign army had landed on British 
soil. For a hundred years the safety of the homeland had 
never been threatened. They went about their business, their 
sport, their class and party fights year after year, generation 
after generation, in perfect confidence and considerable igno- 
rance. All their ideas were derived from conditions of peace. 
All their arrangements were the result of long peace. Most of 
them would have been incredulous, many would have been 
very angry if they had been told that we might be near a 
tremendous war, and that perhaps within this City of London, 


which harboured confidingly visitors from every land, resolute 
foreigners might be aiming a deadly blow at the strength of 
the one great weapon and shield in which we trusted. 

I began to make inquiries about vulnerable points. I found 
the far-seeing Captain Hankey, then Assistant Secretary to the 
Committee of Imperial Defence, already on the move classi- 
fying them for the War Book, which project had actually been 
launched. 1 I inquired further about sabotage and espionage 
and counter-espionage. I came in touch with other officers 
working very quietly and very earnestly but in a small way 
and with small means. I was told about German spies and 
agents in the various British ports. Hitherto the Home Secre- 
tary had to sign a warrant when it was necessary to examine 
any particular letter passing through the Royal Mails. I now 
signed general warrants authorising the examination of all 
the correspondence of particular people upon a list, to which 
additions were continually made. This soon disclosed a regu- 
lar and extensive system of German paid British agents. It 
was only in a very small part of the field of preparation that 
the Home Secretary had any official duty of interference, but 
once I got drawn in, it dominated all other interests in my 
mind. For seven years I was to think of little else. Liberal 
politics, the People's Budget, Free Trade, Peace, Retrench- 
ment and Reform — all the war cries of our election struggles 
began to seem unreal in the presence of this new pre-occupa- 
tion. Only Ireland held her place among the grim realities 
which came one after another into view. No doubt other 
Ministers had similar mental experiences. I am telling my 
own tale. 

I now began to make an intensive study of the military 
position in Europe. I read everything with which I was sup- 
plied. I spent many hours in argument and discussion. The 
Secretary of State for War told his officers to tell me every- 
one work had been begun by Lieutenant-Colonel Adrian Grant- 
Duff, afterwards killed on the Aisne. 


thing I wanted to know. The Chief of the General Staff, Sir 
William Nicholson, was an old friend of mine. I had served 
with him as a young officer on Sir William Lockhart's staff 
at the end of the Tirah Expedition in 1988. He wrote fine 
broad appreciations and preached a clear and steady doctrine. 
But the man from whom I learned most was the Director of 
Military Operations, General Wilson (afterwards Field-Mar- 
shal Sir Henry Wilson). This officer had extraordinary vision 
and faith. He had acquired an immense and, I expect, an un- 
equalled volume of knowledge about the Continent. He knew 
the French Army thoroughly. He was deeply in the secrets 
of the French General Staff. He had been Head of the British 
Staff College. For years he had been labouring with one ob- 
ject, that if war came we should act immediately on the side 
of France. He was sure that war would come sooner or later. 
All the threads of military information were in his hands. 
The whole wall of his small room was covered by a gigantic 
map of Belgium, across which every practicable road by which 
the German armies could march for the invasion of France, 
was painted clearly. All his holidays he spent examining 
these roads and the surrounding country. He could not do 
much in Germany: the Germans knew him too well. 

One night the German ambassador, still Count Metternich, 
whom I had known for ten years, asked me to dine with him. 
We were alone, and a famous hock from the Emperor's cellars 
was produced. We had a long talk about Germany and how 
she had grown great; about Napoleon and the part he had 
played in uniting her; about the Franco- German War and how 
it began and how it ended. I said what a pity it was that Bis- 
marck had allowed himself to be forced by the soldiers into 
taking Lorraine, and how Alsace-Lorraine lay at the root of 
all the European armaments and rival combinations. He said 
these had been German provinces from remote antiquity until 
one day in profound peace Louis XIV had pranced over the 
frontier and seized them. I said their sympathies were 


French: he said they were mixed. I said that anyhow it kept 
the whole thing alive. France could never forget her lost 
provinces, and they never ceased to call to her. The conver- 
sation passed to a kindred but more critical subject. Was he 
anxious about the present situation ? He said people were 
trying to ring Germany round and put her in a net, and that 
she was a strong animal to put in a net. I said, how could she 
be netted when she had an alliance with two other first-class 
Powers, Austria-Hungary and Italy? We had often stood 
quite alone for years at a time without getting flustered. He 
said it was a very different business for an island. But when 
you had been marched through and pillaged and oppressed so 
often and had only the breasts of your soldiers to stand be- 
tween you and invasion, it ate into your soul. I said that 
Germany was frightened of nobody, and that everybody was 
frightened of her. 

Then we came to the Navy. Surely, I said, it was a great 
mistake for Germany to try to rival Britain on the seas. She 
would never catch us up. We should build two to one or 
more if necessary, and at every stage antagonism would grow 
between the countries. Radicals and Tories, whatever they 
might say about each other, were all agreed on that. No 
British Government which jeopardised our naval supremacy 
could live. He said Mr. Lloyd George had told him very 
much the same thing; but the Germans had no thought of 
naval supremacy. All they wanted was a Fleet to protect 
their commerce and their colonies. I asked what was the 
use of having a weaker Fleet ? It was only another hostage 
to fortune. He said that the Emperor was profoundly at- 
tached to his Fleet, and that it was his own creation. I could 
not resist saying that Moltke had pronounced a very differ- 
ent opinion of Germany's true interest. 

I have recorded these notes of a pleasant though careful 
conversation, not because they are of any importance, but 
because they help to show the different points of view. I 


learned afterwards that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 
similar circumstances had spoken more explicitly, saying that 
he would raise a hundred millions in a single year for the Brit- 
ish Navy if its supremacy were really challenged. 

Count Metternich was a very honourable man, serving his 
master faithfully but labouring to preserve peace, especially 
peace between England and Germany. I have heard that 
on one occasion at Berlin in a throng of generals and princes, 
some one had said that the British Fleet would one day make 
a surprise and unprovoked attack upon Germany. Where- 
upon the Ambassador had replied that he had lived in Eng- 
land for nearly ten years, and he knew that such a thing was 
absolutely impossible. On this remark being received with 
obvious incredulity, he had drawn himself up and observed 
that he made it on the honour of a German officer and that 
he would answer for its truth with his honour. This for a 
moment had quelled the company. 

It is customary for thoughtless people to jeer at the old 
diplomacy and to pretend that wars arise out of its secret 
machinations. When one looks at the petty subjects which 
have led to wars between great countries and to so many dis- 
putes, it is easy to be misled in this way. Of course such small 
matters are only the symptoms of the dangerous disease, and 
are only important for that reason. Behind them lie the in- 
terests, the passions and the destiny of mighty races of men ; 
and long antagonisms express themselves in trifles. " Great 
commotions," it was said of old, " arise out of small things, 
but not concerning small things." The old diplomacy did 
its best to render harmless the small things: it could not do 
more. Nevertheless, a war postponed may be a war averted. 
Circumstances change, combinations change, new groupings 
arise, old interests are superseded by new. Many quarrels 
that might have led to war have been adjusted by the old 
diplomacy of Europe and have, in Lord Melbourne's phrase, 
" blown over." . If the nations of the world, while the sense 


of their awful experiences is still fresh upon them, are able 
to devise broader and deeper guarantees of peace and build 
their houses on a surer foundation of brotherhood and inter- 
dependence, they will still require the courtly manners, the 
polite and measured phrases, the imperturbable demeanour, 
the secrecy and discretion of the old diplomatists of Europe. 
This is, however, a digression. 

On August 23rd, after Parliament had risen and Ministers 
had dispersed, the Prime Minister convened very secretly a 
special meeting of the Committee of Imperial Defence. He 
summoned the Ministers specially concerned with the foreign 
situation and with the fighting services, including of course 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There were also the prin- 
cipal officers of the Army and the Navy. I was invited to at- 
tend, though the Home Office was not directly concerned. 
We sat all day. In the morning the Army told its tale: in 
the afternoon, the Navy. 

General Wilson, as Director of Military Operations, stated 
the views of the General Staff. Standing by his enormous 
map, specially transported for the purpose, he unfolded, with 
what proved afterwards to be extreme accuracy, the German 
plan for attacking France in the event of a war between Ger- 
many and Austria on the one hand and France and Russia 
on the other. It was briefly as follows: — 

In the first place the Germans would turn nearly four-fifths 
of their strength against France and leave only one-fifth to 
contain Russia. The German armies would draw up on a 
line from the Swiss frontier to Aix-la-Chapelle. They would 
then swing their right wing through Belgium, thus turning 
the line of fortresses by which the eastern frontiers of France 
were protected. This enormous swinging movement of the 
German right arm would require every road which led through 
Belgium from Luxembourg to the Belgian Meuse. There 
were fifteen of these roads, and three divisions would prob- 
ably march along each. The Belgian Meuse flowed parallel 


to the march of these divisions and protected their right flank. 
Along this river were three important fortified passages or 
bridgeheads. First, nearest Germany, Liege; the last, nearest 
France, Namur; and midway between the two, the fort of 
Huy. Now arose the question, Would the Germans after 
seizing these bridgeheads confine themselves to the eastern 
side of the Belgian Meuse and use the river for their protec- 
tion, or would they be able to spare and bring a large body of 
troops to prolong their turning movement west of the Belgian 
Meuse and thus advance beyond it instead of inside it ? This 
was the only part of their plan which could not be foreseen. 
Would they avoid the west side of the Belgian Meuse alto- 
gether ? Would they skim along it with a cavalry force only, 
or would they march infantry divisions or even army corps 
west of that river ? When the time came, as we now know, 
they marched two whole armies. At that date, however, the 
most sombre apprehension did not exceed one, or at the out- 
side two, army corps. 

Overwhelming detailed evidence was adduced to show that 
the Germans had made every preparation for matching 
through Belgium. The great military camps in close prox- 
imity to the frontier, the enormous depots, the reticulation 
of railways, the endless sidings, revealed with the utmost clear- 
ness and beyond all doubt their design. Liege would be taken 
within a few hours of the declaration of war, possibly even 
before it, by a rush of motor cars and cyclists from the camp 
at Elsenborn. That camp was now (August, 191 1) crowded 
with troops, and inquisitive persons and ordinary country- 
folk were already being roughly turned back and prevented 
from approaching it. 

What would Belgium do in the face of such an onslaught ? 
Nothing could save Liege, but French troops might reach 
Namur in time to aid in its defence. For the rest the Belgian 
army, assuming that Belgium resisted the invader, would 
withdraw into the great entrenched camp and fortress of 


Antwerp. This extensive area, intersected by a tangle of 
rivers and canals and defended by three circles of forts, would 
become the last refuge of the Belgian monarchy and people. 

The position of Holland was also examined. It was not 
thought that the Germans would over-run Holland as they 
would Belgium, but they might find it very convenient to 
march across the curiously shaped projection of Holland which 
lay between Germany and Belgium, and which in the British 
General Staff parlance of that time was called "the Maestricht 
Appendix." They would certainly do this if any considerable 
body of their troops was thrown west of the Belgian Meuse. 

The French plans for meeting this formidable situation 
were not told in detail to us; but it was clear that they hoped 
to forestall and rupture the German enveloping movement 
by a counter-offensive of their own on the greatest scale. 

The number of divisions available on both sides and on 
all fronts when mobilisation was completed were estimated 
as follows: — 

French 85 

German no 

It was asserted that if the six British divisions were sent to 
take position on the extreme French left, immediately war 
was declared, the chances of repulsing the Germans in the first 
great shock of battle were favourable. Every French soldier 
would fight with double confidence if he knew he was not 
fighting alone. Upon the strength of Russia General Wilson 
spoke with great foresight, and the account which he gave 
of the slow mobilisation of the Russian Army swept away 
many illusions. It seemed incredible that Germany should 
be content to leave scarcely a score of divisions to make head 
against the might of Russia. But the British General Staff 
considered that such a decision would be well-founded. We 
shall see presently how the loyalty of Russia and of the Tsar, 
found the means by prodigious sacrifices to call back to the 


East vital portions of the German Army at the supreme mo- 
ment. Such action could not be foreseen then, and most peo- 
ple have forgotten it now. 

There was of course a considerable discussion and much 
questioning before we adjourned at 2 o'clock. When we began 
again at three, it was the turn of the Admiralty, and the First 
Sea Lord, Sir Arthur Wilson, with another map expounded 
his views of the policy we should pursue in the event of our 
being involved in such a war. He did not reveal the Admiralty 
war plans. Those he kept locked away in his own brain, but 
he indicated that they embodied the principle of a close block- 
ade of the enemy's ports. It was very soon apparent that a 
profound difference existed between the War Office and the 
Admiralty view. In the main the Admiralty thought that we 
should confine our efforts to the sea; that if our small Army 
were sent to the Continent it would be swallowed up among 
the immense hosts conflicting there, whereas if kept in ships 
or ready to embark for counterstrokes upon the German coast, 
it would draw off more than its own weight of numbers from 
the German fighting line. This view, which was violently 
combated by the Generals, did not commend itself to the bulk 
of those present, and on many points of detail connected with 
the landings of these troops the military and naval authori- 
ties were found in complete discord. The serious disagree- 
ment between the military and naval staffs in such critical 
times upon fundamental issues was the immediate cause of 
my going to the Admiralty. After the Council had separated, 
Mr. Haldane intimated to the Prime Minister that he would 
not continue to be responsible for the War Office unless a 
Board of Admiralty was called into being which would work 
in full harmony with the War Office plans, and would begin 
the organisation of a proper Naval War Staff. Of course I 
knew nothing of this, but it was destined soon to affect my 
fortunes in a definite manner. 

I thought that the General Staff took too sanguine a view 


of the French Army. Knowing their partisanship for France, 
I feared the wish was father to the thought. It was inevi- 
table that British military men, ardently desirous of seeing 
their country intervene on the side of France, and convinced 
that the destruction of France by Germany would imperil 
the whole future of Great Britain, should be inclined to over- 
rate the relative power of the French Army and accord it 
brighter prospects than were actually justified. The bulk of 
their information was derived from French sources. The 
French General Staff were resolute and hopeful. The prin- 
ciple of the offensive was the foundation of their military art 
and the mainspring of the French soldier. Although accord- 
ing to the best information, the French pre-war Army when 
fully mobilised was only three-fourths as strong as the Ger- 
man pre-war Army, the French mobilisation from the ninth 
to the thirteenth day yielded a superior strength on the fight- 
ing front. High hopes were entertained by the French Gen- 
erals that a daring seizure of the initiative and a vigorous 
offensive into Alsace-Lorraine would have the effect of rup- 
turing the carefully thought out German plans of marching 
through Belgium on to Paris. These hopes were reflected in 
the British General Staff appreciations. 

I could not share them. I had therefore prepared a memo- 
randum for the Committee of Imperial Defence which embodied 
my own conclusions upon all I had learned from the General 
Staff. It was Dated August 13, 191 1. It was, of course, only 
an attempt to pierce the veil of the future; to conjure up in 
the mind a vast imaginary situation; to balance the incal- 
culable; to weigh the imponderable. It will be seen that I 
named the twentieth day of mobilisation as the date by which 
"the French armies will have been driven from the line of 
the Meuse and will be falling back on Paris and the South," 
and the fortieth day as that by which " Germany should be 
extended at full strain both internally and on her war fronts," 
and that "opportunities for the decisive trial of strength 


may then occur." I am quite free to admit that these were 
not intended to be precise dates, but as guides to show what 
would probably happen. In fact, however, both these fore- 
casts were almost literally verified three years later by the 

I reprinted this memorandum on the 2nd of September, 
1 9 14, in order to encourage my colleagues with the hope that 
if the unfavourable prediction about the twentieth day had 
been borne out, so also would be the favourable prediction 
about the fortieth day. And so indeed it was. 


Memorandum by Mr. Churchill 

August 13, ion. 
The following notes have been written on the assumption 
. . . that a decision has been arrived at to employ a British 
military force on the Continent of Europe. It does not pre- 
judge that decision in any way. 

It is assumed that an alliance exists between Great Britain, 
France, and Russia, and that these Powers are attacked by 
Germany and Austria. 

1. The decisive military operations will be those between 
France and Germany. The German army is at least equal 
in quality to the French, and mobilises 2,200,000 against 
1,700,000. The French must therefore seek for a situation of 
more equality. This can be found either before the full 
strength of the Germans has been brought to bear or after 
the German army has become extended. The first might be 
reached between the ninth and thirteenth days; the latter 
about the fortieth. 

2. The fact that during a few days in the mobilisation 
period the French are equal or temporarily superior on the 
frontiers is of no significance, except on the assumption that 
France contemplates adopting a strategic offensive. The 
Germans will not choose the days when they themselves have 
least superiority for a general advance; and if the French ad- 
vance, they lose at once all the advantages of their own internal 


communications, and by moving towards the advancing Ger- 
man reinforcements annul any numerical advantage they may 
for the moment possess. The French have therefore, at the 
beginning of the war, no option but to remain on the defen- 
sive, both upon their own fortress line and behind the Belgian 
frontier; and the choice of the day when the first main collision 
will commence rests with the Germans, who must be credited 
with the wisdom of choosing the best possible day, and can- 
not be forced into decisive action against their will, except by 
some reckless and unjustifiable movement on the part of the 

3. A prudent survey of chances from the British point of 
view ought to contemplate that, when the German advance 
decisively begins, it will be backed by sufficient preponder- 
ance of force, and developed on a sufficiently wide front to 
compel the French armies to retreat from their positions be- 
hind the Belgian frontier, even though they may hold the 
gaps between the fortresses on the Verdun-Belfort front. No 
doubt a series of great battles will have been fought with 
varying local fortunes, and there is always a possibility of a 
heavy German check. But, even if the Germans were brought 
to a standstill, the French would not be strong enough to ad- 
vance in their turn; and in any case we ought not to count on 
this. The balance of probability is that by the twentieth 
day the French armies will have been driven from the line of 
the Meuse and will be falling back on Paris and the south. 
All plans based upon the opposite assumption ask too much of 

4. This is not to exclude the plan of using four or six British 
divisions in these great initial operations. Such a force is a 
material factor of significance. Its value to the French would 
be out of all proportion to its numerical strength. It would 
encourage every French soldier and make the task of the 
Germans in forcing the frontier much more costly. But the 
question which is of most practical consequence to us is what 
is to happen after the frontier has been forced and the invasion 
of France has begun. France will not be able to end the war 
successfully by any action on the frontiers. She will not be 
strong enough to invade Germany. Her only chance is to 
conquer Germany in France. It is this problem which should 
be studied before any final decision is taken. 


5. The German armies in advancing through Belgium and 
onwards into France will be relatively weakened by all or any 
of the following causes: — 

By the greater losses incidental to the offensive (especially 
if they have tested unsuccessfully the French fortress lines); 

By the greater employment of soldiers necessitated by act- 
ing on exterior lines; 

By having to guard their communications through Belgium 
and France (especially from the sea flank) ; 

By having to invest Paris (requiring at least 500,000 men 
against 100,000) and to besiege or mask other places, espe- 
cially along the sea-board; 

By the arrival of the British army; 

By the growing pressure of Russia from the thirtieth day; 

And generally by the bad strategic situation to which their 
right-handed advance will commit them as it becomes pro- 

All these factors will operate increasingly in proportion as 
the German advance continues and every day that passes. 

6. Time is also required for the naval blockade to make 
itself felt on German commerce, industry, and food prices, 
as described in the Admiralty Memorandum, and for these 
again to react on German credit and finances already bur- 
dened with the prodigious daily cost of the war. All these 
pressures will develop simultaneously and progressively. [The 
Chancellor of the Exchequer has drawn special attention to 
this and to the very light structure of German industry and 
economic organisations.] 

7. By the fortieth day Germany should be extended at full 
strain both internally and on her war fronts, and this strain 
will become daily more severe and ultimately overwhelming, 
unless it is relieved by decisive victories in France. If the 
French army has not been squandered by precipitate or des- 
perate action, the balance of forces should be favourable after 
the fortieth day, and will improve steadily as time passes. For 
the German armies will be confronted with a situation which 
combines an ever-growing need for a successful offensive, with 
a battle-front which tends continually towards numerical 
equality. Opportunities for the decisive trial of strength 
may then occur. 

8. Such a policy demands heavy and hard sacrifices from 


France, who must, with great constancy, expose herself to 
invasion, to having her provinces occupied by the enemy, and 
to the investment of Paris, and whose armies may be com- 
mitted to retrograde or defensive operations. Whether her 
rulers could contemplate or her soldiers endure this trial may 
depend upon the military support which Great Britain can 
give; and this must be known beforehand, so that the French 
war-plans can be adjusted accordingly, and so that we may 
know, before we decide, what they would be prepared to do. 
9. The following measures would appear to be required to 
enable Great Britain to take an effective part in the decisive 
theatre of the war: — 

The four divisions of the expeditionary army, 
with their auxiliary troops, should be sent 
on the outbreak of war to France . . . 107,000 
To these should be added the two remaining di- 
visions as soon as the naval blockade is effec- 
tively established 53, 000 

And the 7th Division from South Africa and the 
Mediterranean (as soon as the colonial forces 
in South Africa can be embodied) . . . 15,000 
And 5,000 additional Yeomanry cavalry or light 
horse, with 10,000 volunteer cyclist Terri- 
torials 15,000 

As we should be allies of Russia, the Anglo- 
Indian Army could be drawn upon so long as 
two native regiments were moved out of India 
for every British regiment. Lord Kitchener 
has stated that it would be possible in so grave 
a need, to withdraw six out of the nine field 
divisions from India, and this should be done 
immediately. This force could be brought 
into France by Marseilles by the fortieth day 100,000 

Thus making a total force of . 290,000 

This fine army, almost entirely composed of professional 
soldiers, could be assembled around (say) Tours by the for- 
tieth day, in rear of the French left (instead of being frittered 
into action piecemeal), and would then become a very impor- 
tant factor in events. The Russian army would also by then 


be engaged in full force on the eastern frontiers of Germany 
and Austria, and the power of the three allies should then be 
sufficient either to hold the Germans in a position of growing 
difficulty or, if desirable, to assume the offensive in concert. 
10. To provide meanwhile for the security of Great Britain, 
for unforeseeable contingencies, and for sustaining the expe- 
ditionary army with a continuous supply of volunteer drafts, 
it would be necessary on the outbreak — 

(a) To embody the whole Territorial force. 

(b) To call for volunteers for Home defence from all persons 
possessing military experience. 

(c) To raise a compulsory levy of 500,000 men for Home 

This levy should be formed upon the cadres of the Territorial 
divisions, so as to enable a proportion of the Territorial army 
to be released at the end of the sixth month. The question of 
sending any part of the compulsory levy by compulsion to 
the Continent would not arise until after this force had 
been trained. The steady augmentation of British military 
strength during the progress of the war would, however, put 
us in a position by the end of the twelfth month to secure or 
re-establish British interests outside Europe, even if, through 
the defeat or desertion of allies, we were forced to continue 
the war alone. 

No lesser steps would seem adequate to the scale of events. 

w. s. c. 

The Conference separated. Apprehension lay heavy on the 
minds of all who had participated in it. 

The War Office hummed with secrets in those days. Not 
the slightest overt action could be taken. But every prepara- 
tion by forethought was made and every detail was worked 
out on paper. The railway time-tables, or graphics as they 
were called, of the movement of every battalion — even where 
they were to drink their coffee — were prepared and settled. 
Thousands of maps of Northern France and Belgium were 
printed. The cavalry manoeuvres were postponed "on ac- 
count of the scarcity of water in Wiltshire and the neighbour- 
ing counties." The press, fiercely divided on party lines, 


overwhelmingly pacific in tendency, without censorship, with- 
out compulsion, observed a steady universal reticence. Not 
a word broke the long drawn oppressive silence. The great 
railway strike came to an end with mysterious suddenness. 
Mutual concessions were made by masters and men after hear- 
ing a confidential statement from the Chancellor of the Ex- 

In the middle of August I went to the country for a few 
days. I could not think of anything else but the peril oi 
war. I did my other work as it came along, but there was 
only one field of interest fiercely illuminated in my mind. 
Sitting on a hilltop in the smiling country which stretches 
round Mells, the lines I have copied at the top of this 
chapter kept running through my mind. Whenever I recall 
them, they bring back to me the anxieties of those Agadir 

From Mells I wrote the following letter to Sir Edward Grey. 
It speaks for itself. 

Mr. Churchill to Sir Edward Grey. 

30 August, 191 1. 

Perhaps the time is coming when decisive action will be 
necessary. Please consider the following policy for use if and 
when the Morocco negotiations fail. 

Propose to France and Russia a triple alliance to safe- 
guard {inter alia) the independence of Belgium, Holland, and 

Tell Belgium that, if her neutrality is violated, we are pre- 
pared to come to her aid and to make an alliance with France 
and Russia to guarantee her independence. Tell her that 
we will take whatever military steps will be most effective for 
that purpose. But the Belgian Army must take the field in 
concert with the British and French Armies, and Belgium must 
immediately garrison properly Liege and Namur. Otherwise 
we cannot be responsible for her fate. 

Offer the same guarantee both to Holland and to Denmark 
contingent upon their making their utmost exertions. 


We should, if necessary, aid Belgium to defend Antwerp 
and to feed that fortress and any army based on it. We 
should be prepared at the proper moment to put extreme pres- 
sure on the Dutch to keep the Scheldt open for all purposes. 
If the Dutch close the Scheldt, we should retaliate by a block- 
ade of the Rhine. 

It is very important to us to be able to blockade the Rhine, 
and it gets more important as the war goes on. On the other 
hand, if the Germans do not use the "Maestricht Appendix" 
in the first days of the war, they will not want it at all. 

Let me add that I am not at all convinced about the wisdom 
of a close blockade, and I did not like the Admiralty state- 
ment. If the French send cruisers to Mogador and Saffi, I 
am of opinion that we should (for our part) move our main 
fleet to the north of Scotland into its war station. Our in- 
terests are European, and not Moroccan. The significance of 
the movement would be just as great as if we sent our two 
ships with the French. 

Please let me know when you will be in London; and will 
you kindly send this letter on to the Prime Minister. 

My views underwent no change in the three years of peace 
that followed. On the contrary they were confirmed and 
amplified by everything I learned. In some respects, as in 
the abolition of the plan of close blockade and the sending 
of the Fleet to its war station, I was able to carry them out. 
In other cases, such as the defence of Antwerp, I had not the 
power to do in time what I believed to be equally necessary. 
But I tried my best, not, as has frequently been proclaimed, 
upon a foolish impulse, but in pursuance of convictions 
reached by pondering and study. I could not help feeling 
a strong confidence in the truth of these convictions, when I 
saw how several of them were justified one after the other 
in that terrible and unparalleled period of convulsion. I had 
no doubts whatever what ought to be done in certain mat- 
ters, and my only difficulty was to persuade or induce 




The Agadir crisis came however peacefully to an end. It 
had terminated in the diplomatic rebuff of Germany. Once 
more she had disturbed all Europe by a sudden and menacing 
gesture. Once more she had used the harshest threats towards 
France. For the first time she had made British statesmen 
feel that sense of direct contact with the war peril which was 
never absent from Continental minds. The French, how- 
ever, offered concessions and compensations. An intricate 
negotiation about the frontiers of French and German terri- 
tory in West Africa, in which the "Bee de Canard" played 
an important part, had resulted in an agreement between 
the two principals. To us it seemed that France had won a 
considerable advantage. She was not, however, particularly 
pleased. Her Prime Minister, Monsieur Caillaux, who had 
presided during those anxious days, was dismissed from office 
on grounds which at the time it was very difficult to appre- 
ciate here, but which viewed in the light of subsequent events 
can more easily be understood. The tension in German gov- 
erning circles must have been very great. The German 
Colonial Secretary, von Lindequist, resigned rather than 
sign the agreement. There is no doubt that deep and violent 
passions of humiliation and resentment were coursing be- 
neath the glittering uniforms which thronged the palaces 
through which the Kaiser moved. And of those passions the 
Crown Prince made himself the exponent. The world has 
heaped unbounded execrations upon this unlucky being. He 
was probably in fact no better and no worse than the aver- 
age young cavalry subaltern who had not been through the 
ordinary mill at a public school nor had to think about earn- 
ing his living. He had a considerable personal charm, which 
he lavished principally upon the fair sex, but which in darker 
days has captivated the juvenile population of Wieringen. 
His flattered head was turned by the burning eyes and gut- 
tural words of great captains and statesmen and party leaders. 
He therefore threw himself forward into this strong favouring 


current, and became a power, or rather the focus of a power, 
with which the Kaiser was forced to reckon. Germany once 
more proceeded to increase her armaments by land and sea. 

"It was a question," writes von Tirpitz, "of our keeping 
our nerve, continuing to arm on a grand scale, avoiding all 
provocation, and waiting without anxiety until our sea power 
was established 1 and forced the English to let us breathe in 
peace." Only to breathe in peace ! What fearful apparatus 
was required to secure this simple act of respiration ! 

Early in October Mr. Asquith invited me to stay with him 
in Scotland. The day after I had arrived there, on our way 
home from the links, he asked me quite abruptly whether 
I would like to go to the Admiralty. He had put the same 
question to me when he first became Prime Minister. This 
time I had no doubt what to answer. All my mind was full of 
the dangers of war. I accepted with alacrity. I said, "In- 
deed I would." He said that Mr. Haldane was coming to see 
him the next day and we would talk it over together. But 
I saw that his mind was made up. The fading light of eve- 
ning disclosed in the far distance the silhouettes of two battle- 
ships steaming slowly out of the Firth of Forth. They seemed 
invested with a new significance to me. 

That night when I went to bed, I saw a large Bible lying 
on a table in my bedroom. My mind was dominated by the 
news I had received of the complete change in my station 
and of the task entrusted to me. I thought of the peril of 
Britain, peace-loving, unthinking, little prepared, of her power 
and virtue, and of her mission of good sense and fair play. I 
thought of mighty Germany, towering up in the splendour 
of her imperial state and delving down in her profound, cold, 
patient, ruthless calculations. I thought of the army corps 
I had watched tramp past, wave after wave of valiant man- 
hood, at the Breslau manoeuvres in 1907; of the thousands of 
strong horses dragging cannon and great howitzers up the 
1 The italics are mine. 


ridges and along the roads around Wurzburg in 19 10. I 
thought of German education and thoroughness and all that 
their triumphs in science and philosophy implied. I thought 
of the sudden and successful wars by which her power had 
been set up. I opened the Book at random, and in the 9th 
Chapter of Deuteronomy I read — 

l?ear, SD Israel; {Ebou art to pass ober Jordan tbis 
Hap, to go in to possess nation* greater and tniQititt 
tban tbpself , cities great and fenced up to beaben, 

2, a people great and tall, tit cbildren of tbe flnakims. 
toiom tbou knotoest, and of tobom tfiou bast Jeard sap, 
Sfllfio can Stand before tit children ot &nakt 

3, {Understand therefore tbis dap, tbat tfie Eord t5p (Bod 
is fit tofurt) ffottft ober before tbee; a* a consuming tire 
je Sball destroy tbem, and 6c sball bring tbem doton 
betore tbp face: 00 sbalt t&ou dribe tbem out, and destroy 
tbem quicklp, as tit Eord batj) said unto tbee. 

4, &peak not tbou in tbine fjeart, after tbat tbe Eord tbp 
(Bod jatb cast titm out from before titt t saying, 3ffor mp 
rigbteousness tbe Eord batb brought me in to possess 
tbis land: but tor tlje toickedness ot tbese nations tit 
Eord dotb bribe tbem out from before tbee, 

5, |5ot for tfip rigbteousness or for tit uprigbtness of 
tbine Jeart, dost tbou go to possess tbeir land; but for tit 
toickedness of tbese nations tbe Eord tiv (Bod dotb bribe 
tbem out from before tbee, and tbat be map perform tbe 
toord tobicb tit Eord stoare unto tbp fathers, flbrabam, 
Isaac, and Jacob. 

It seemed a message full of reassurance. 


"Concerning brave Captains 
Our age hath made known." 

Rudyard Kipling. 

At the Admiralty — The State of Business — Immediate Measures — The 
Two Leading Sailors — Lord Fisher of Kilverstone — His Great Re- 
forms — His Violent Methods — The Schism in the Fleet — Difficul- 
ties of His Task — The Bacon Letters — Our Conference at Reigate 
Priory — A Fateful Decision — Lord Fisher's Correspondence — Sir 
Arthur Wilson, the First Sea Lord — Deadlock Concerning the War 
Staff Policy — Formation of a New Board of Admiralty — The 
Command of the Home Fleets — Sir Arthur Wilson's Retirement — 
A Digression Forward — Captain Pakenham's Sea-going Record — 
Rear-Admiral Beatty — The Naval Secretary — Prince Louis of 
Battenberg Becomes Second Sea Lord — The War Staff — Military 
Education and Staff Training — Captains of Ships and Captains of 
War — Fifteen Years and Only Thirty Months. 

TV/fR- McKENNA and I changed guard with strict punc- 
***• tilio. In the morning he came over to the Home Office 
and I introduced him to the officials there. In the afternoon 
I went over to the Admiralty; he presented his Board and 
principal officers and departmental heads to me, and then 
took his leave. I knew he felt greatly his change of office, 
but no one would have divined it from his manner. As soon 
as he had gone I convened a formal meeting of the Board, at 
which the Secretary read the new Letters Patent constituting 
me its head, and I thereupon in the words of the Order-in- 
Council became "responsible to Crown and Parliament for 
all the business of the Admiralty." I was to endeavour to 
discharge this responsibility for the four most memorable 
years of my life. 



The state of Admiralty business was as follows: — The Esti- 
mates and plans for the financial year 191 2-13 were far ad- 
vanced: the programme had been settled and the designs of 
the vessels only awaited final approval. We were to lay down 
three battleships, one battle-cruiser, two light cruisers (" Dart- 
mouths"), one smaller light cruiser (a "Blonde"), the usual 
flotilla of twenty destroyers and a number of submarines and 
ancillary craft. The Estimates embodying this policy had to 
be passed by the Cabinet at the latest by the end of February, 
and presented to the House of Commons in the utmost detail 
in March. 

But a great uncertainty hung over all these plans. A con- 
tinued succession of rumours and reports from many sources, 
and of hints and allusions in the German Press, foreshadowed 
a further German naval increase. This, following upon all 
that had gone before and coming at a moment when relations 
were so tense, must certainly aggravate the situation. It 
would inevitably compel us to take important additional 
counter-measures. What these counter-measures would have 
to be, could not be decided till the text of the new German 
Navy Law was known to us. It was clear, however, from the 
information received, that it was not only to be an increase 
in new construction but in the number of squadrons or vessels 
maintained in a state of instant and constant readiness. 

In addition to these complications were a number of naval 
questions of prime importance which I conceived required 
new treatment. First, the War Plans of the Fleet, which up to 
that moment had been based upon the principle of close block- 
ade. Second, the organisation of the fleets with a view to 
increasing their instantly ready strength. Third, measures 
to guard against all aspects of surprise in the event of a sud- 
den attack. Fourth, the formation of a Naval War Staff. 
Fifth, the concerting of the War Plans of the Navy and the 
Army by close co-operation of the two departments. Sixth, 
further developments in design to increase the gun power of 


our new ships in all classes. Seventh, changes in the high 
commands of the Fleet and in the composition of the Board 
of Admiralty. 

To all these matters I addressed myself in constant secret 
consultations with the principal persons concerned in each. 
For the present, however, I arrived at no important decisions, 
but laboured continually to check and correct the opinions 
with which I had arrived at the Admiralty by the ex- 
pert information which on every subject was now at my 

With the agreement of the Sea Lords I gave certain direc- 
tions on minor points immediately. The flotilla of destroyers 
sanctioned in the 1911-12 Estimates would not have been let 
out to contract till the very end of the financial year. We 
now accelerated these twenty boats (the "L's") by four 
months, and thus, though we could not possibly foresee it, 
they were almost all fully commissioned just in time for the 
great review and mobilization of the Fleet which preceded 
the outbreak of war. I gave, moreover, certain personal di- 
rections to enable me "to sleep quietly in my bed." The 
naval magazines were to be effectively guarded under the 
direct charge of the Admiralty. The continuous attendance of 
naval officers, additional to that of the resident clerks, was 
provided at the Admiralty, so that at any hour of the day 
or night, weekdays, Sundays, or holidays, there would never 
be a moment lost in giving the alarm; and one of the Sea 
Lords was always to be on duty in or near the Admiralty 
building to receive it. Upon the wall behind my chair I had 
an open case fitted, within whose folding doors spread a large 
chart of the North Sea. On this chart every day a Staff Officer 
marked with flags the position of the German Fleet. Never 
once was this ceremony omitted until the War broke out, and 
the great maps, covering the whole of one side of the War 
Room, began to function. I made a rule to look at my chart 
once every day when I first entered my room. I did this less 


to keep myself informed, for there were many other channels 
of information, than in order to inculcate in myself and those 
working with me a sense of ever-present danger. In this 
spirit we all worked. 

I must now introduce the reader to the two great Admirals- 
of-the-Fleet, Lord Fisher and Sir Arthur Wilson, whose out- 
standing qualities and life's work, afloat and at the Admiralty, 
added to and reacted upon by the energies and patriotism of 
Lord Charles Beresford, had largely made the Royal Navy 
what it was at this time. The names of both Fisher and Wil- 
son must often recur in these pages, for they played decisive 
parts in the tale I have to tell. 

I first met Lord Fisher at Biarritz in 1907. We stayed for 
a fortnight as the guests of a common friend. He was then 
First Sea Lord and in the height of his reign. We talked all 
day long and far into the nights. He told me wonderful stories 
of the Navy and of his plans — all about Dreadnoughts, all 
about submarines, all about the new education scheme for 
every branch of the Navy, all about big guns, and splendid 
Admirals and foolish miserable ones, and Nelson and the 
Bible, and finally the island of Borkum. I remembered it 
all. I reflected on it often. I even remembered the island of 
Borkum when my teacher had ceased to think so much of it. 
At any rate, when I returned to my duties at the Colonial 
Office I could have passed an examination on the policy of 
the then Board of Admiralty. 

For at least ten years all the most important steps taken 
to enlarge, improve or modernise the Navy had been due to 
Fisher. The water-tube boiler, the a all big gun ship," the in- 
troduction of the submarine (" Fisher's toys," as Lord Charles 
Beresford called them), the common education scheme, the 
system of nucleus crews for ships in reserve, and latterly — to 
meet the German rivalry — the concentration of the Fleets in 
Home Waters, the scrapping of great quantities of ships of 
little fighting power, the great naval programmes of 1908 



and 1909, the advance from the 12-inch to the 13.5-inch gun 
— all in the main were his. 

In carrying through these far-reaching changes he had 
created violent oppositions to himself in the Navy, and his 
own methods, in which he gloried, were of a kind to excite 
bitter animosities, which he returned and was eager to re- 
pay. He made it known, indeed he proclaimed, that officers 
of whatever rank who opposed his policies would have their 
professional careers ruined. As for traitors, i. e., those who 
struck at him openly or secretly, "their wives should be 
widows, their children fatherless, their homes a dunghill. " 
This he repeated again and again. " Ruthless, relentless and 
remorseless " were words always on his lips, and many grisly 
examples of Admirals and Captains eating out their hearts 
"on the beach ,, showed that he meant what he said. He did 
not hesitate to express his policy in the most unfavourable 
terms, as if to challenge and defy his enemies and critics. 
"Favouritism," he wrote in the log of Dartmouth College, 
" is the secret of efficiency." What he meant by " favouritism " 
was selection without regard to seniority by a discerning genius 
in the interests of the public; but the word "favouritism" 
stuck. Officers were said to be "in the fish-pond" — unlucky 
for them if they were not. He poured contempt upon the 
opinions and arguments of those who did not agree with his 
schemes, and abused them roundly at all times both by word 
and letter. 

In the Royal Navy, however, there were a considerable num- 
ber of officers of social influence and independent means, 
many of whom became hostile to Fisher. They had access 
to Parliament and to the Press. In sympathy with them, 
though not with all their methods, was a much larger body 
of good and proved sea officers. At the head of the whole 
opposition stood Lord Charles Beresford, at that time Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the Channel or principal Fleet. A de- 
plorable schism was introduced into the Royal Navy, which 


spread to every squadron and to every ship. There were 
Fisher's men and Beresford's men. Whatever the First Sea 
Lord proposed the Commander-in-Chief opposed, and through 
the whole of the Service Captains and Lieutenants were en- 
couraged to take one side or the other. The argument was 
conducted with technicalities and with personalities. Neither 
side was strong enough to crush the other. The Admiralty 
had its backers in the Fleet, and the Fleet had its friends in 
the Admiralty: both sides therefore had good information as to 
what was passing in the other camp. The lamentable situa- 
tion thus created might easily have ruined the discipline of 
the Navy but for the fact that a third large body of officers 
resolutely refused, at whatever cost to themselves, to par- 
ticipate in the struggle. Silently and steadfastly they went 
about their work till the storms of partisanship were past. 
To these officers a debt is due. 

There is no doubt whatever that Fisher was right in nine- 
tenths of what he fought for. His great reforms sustained 
the power of the Royal Navy at the most critical period in its 
history. He gave the Navy the kind of shock which the Brit- 
ish Army received at the time of the South African War. 
After a long period of serene and unchallenged complacency, 
the mutter of distant thunder could be heard. It was Fisher 
who hoisted the storm-signal and beat all hands to quarters. 
He forced every department of the Naval Service to review 
its position and question its own existence. He shook them 
and beat them and cajoled them out of slumber into intense 
activity. But the Navy was not a pleasant place while this 
was going on. The "Band of Brothers" tradition which Nel- 
son had handed down was for the time, but only for the time, 
discarded; and behind the open hostility of chieftains flour- 
ished the venomous intrigues of their followers. 

I have asked myself whether all this could not have been 
avoided; whether we could not have had the Fisher reforms 
without the Fisher methods ? My conviction is that Fisher 


was maddened by the difficulties and obstructions which he 
encountered, and became violent in the process of fighting 
so hard at every step. In the government of a great fighting 
service there must always be the combination of the political 
and professional authorities. A strong First Sea Lord, to 
carry out a vigorous policy, needs the assistance of a Minister, 
who alone can support him and defend him. The authority of 
both is more than doubled by their union. Each can render 
the other services of supreme importance when they are both 
effective factors. Working in harmony, they multiply each 
other. By the resultant concentration of combined power, no 
room or chance is given to faction. For good or for ill what 
they decide together in the interests of the Service must be 
loyally accepted. Unhappily, the later years of Fisher's efforts 
were years in which the Admiralty was ruled by two Ministers, 
both of whom were desperately and even mortally ill. Al- i 
though most able and most upright public men, both Lord 
Cawdor and Lord Tweedmouth, First Lords from 1904 to 1908, 
were afflicted with extreme ill-health. Moreover, neither was 
in the House of Commons and able himself, by exposition in 
the responsible Chamber, to proclaim in unquestioned ac- 
cents the policy which the Admiralty would follow and which 
the House of Commons should ratify. When in 1908 Mr.. 
McKenna became First Lord, there was a change.* Gifted 
with remarkable clearness of mind and resolute courage, 
enjoying in the prime of life the fullest vigour of his facul- 
ties, and having acquired a strong political position in the 
House of Commons, he was able to supply an immediate 
steadying influence. But it was too late for Fisher. The 
Furies were upon his track. The opposition and hatreds 
had already grown too strong. The schism in the Navy 
continued, fierce and open. 

The incident which is most commonly associated with the 
end of this part of his career is that of the " Bacon letters." 
Captain Bacon was one of the ablest officers in the Navy and 


a strong Fisherite. In 1906 he had been serving in the Medi- 
terranean under Lord Charles Beresford. Fisher had asked 
him to write to him from time to time and keep him informed 
of all that passed. This he did in letters in themselves of much 
force and value, but open to the reproach of containing criti- 
cisms of his immediate commander. This in itself might have 
escaped unnoticed; but the First Sea Lord used to print in 
beautiful and carefully considered type, letters, notes and 
memoranda on technical subjects for the instruction and 
encouragement of the faithful. Delighted at the cogency of 
the arguments in the Bacon letters, he had them printed in 
1909 and circulated fairly widely throughout the Admiralty. 
A copy fell at length into hostile hands and was swiftly con- 
veyed to a London evening newspaper. The First Sea Lord 
was accused of encouraging subordinates in disloyalty to their 
immediate commanders, and Captain Bacon himself was so 
grievously smitten in the opinion of the Service that he with- 
drew into private life and his exceptional abilities were lost 
to the Navy, though, as will be seen, only for a time. The 
episode was fatal, and at the beginning of 1910 Sir John 
Fisher quitted the Admiralty and passed, as every one be- 
lieved, finally into retirement and the House of Lords, crowned 
with achievements, loaded with honours, but pursued by 
much obloquy, amid the triumph of his foes. 

As soon as I knew for certain that I was to go to the Ad- 
miralty I sent for Fisher: he was abroad in sunshine. We 
had not seen each other since the dispute about the Naval 
Estimates of 1909. He conceived himself bound in loyalty 
to Mr. McKenna, but as soon as he learned that I had had 
nothing to do with the decision which had led to our changing 
offices, he hastened home. We passed three days together 
in the comfort of Reigate Priory. 

Although my education had been mainly military, I had 
followed closely every detail of the naval controversies of 
the previous five years in the Cabinet, in Parliament, and 


latterly in the Committee of Imperial Defence; and I had 
certain main ideas of what I was going to do and what, indeed, 
I was sent to the Admiralty to do. I intended to prepare for 
an attack by Germany as if it might come next day. I in- 
tended to raise the Fleet to the highest possible strength 
and secure that all that strength was immediately ready. I 
was pledged to create a War Staff. I was resolved to have 
all arrangements made at once in the closest concert with the 
military to provide for the transportation of a British Army 
to France should war come. I had strong support from the 
War Office and the Foreign Office: I had the Prime Minister 
and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at my back. Moreover, 
every one who knew the crisis through which we had passed 
had been profoundly alarmed. In these circumstances it 
only remained to study the methods, and to choose the men. 

I found Fisher a veritable volcano of knowledge and of 
inspiration; and as soon as he learnt what my main purpose 
was, he passed into a state of vehement eruption. It must in- 
deed have been an agony to him to wait and idly watch from 
the calm Lake of Lucerne through the anxious weeks of the 
long-drawn Agadir crisis, with his life's work, his beloved 
Navy, liable at any moment to be put to the supreme test. 
Once he began, he could hardly stop. I plied him with ques- 
tions, and he poured out ideas. It was always a joy to me to 
talk to him on these great matters, but most of all was he 
stimulating in all that related to the design of ships. He 
also talked brilliantly about Admirals, but here one had to 
make a heavy discount on account of the feuds. My inten- 
tion was to hold the balance even, and while adopting in the 
main the Fisher policy, to insist upon an absolute cessation 
of the vendetta. 

Knowing pretty well, all that has been written in the pre- 
ceding pages, I began our conversations with no thought of 
Fisher's recall. But by the Sunday night the power of the 
man was deeply borne in upon me, and I had almost made 


up my mind to do what I did three years later, and place hirc i 
again at the head of the Naval Service. It was not the outcry 
that I feared; that I felt strong enough at this time to face 
But it was the revival and continuance of the feuds; and it 
was clear from his temper that this would be inevitable. Then, 
too, I was apprehensive of his age. I could not feel complete 
confidence in the poise of the mind at 71. All the way up 
to London the next morning I was on the brink of saying 
"Come and help me," and had he by a word seemed to wish 
to return, I would surely have spoken. But he maintained 
a proper dignity, and in an hour we were in London. Other 
reflections supervened, adverse counsels were not lacking, and 
in a few days I had definitely made up my mind to look else- 
where for a First Sea Lord. I wonder whether I was right or 

For a man who for so many years filled great official posi- 
tions and was charged with so much secret and deadly busi- 
ness, Lord Fisher appeared amazingly voluminous and reck- 
less in correspondence. When for the purposes of this work 
and for the satisfaction of his biographers I collected all the 
letters I had received from the Admiral in his own hand, 
they amounted when copied to upwards of 300 closely type- 
written pages. In the main they repeat again and again 
the principal naval conceptions and doctrines with which 
his life had been associated. Although it would be easy to 
show many inconsistencies and apparent contradictions, the 
general message is unchanging. The letters are also pre- 
sented in an entertaining guise, interspersed with felicitous 
and sometimes recondite quotations, with flashing phrases 
and images, with mordant jokes and corrosive personal- 
ities. All were dashed off red-hot as they left his mind, his 
strong pen galloping along in the wake of the imperious 
thought. He would often audaciously fling out on paper 
thoughts which other people would hardly admit to their 
own minds. It is small wonder that his turbulent passage 


htit so many foes foaming in his wake. The wonder is that 
Le did not shipwreck himself a score of times. The buoyancy 
c t his genius alone supported the burden. Indeed, in the 
process of years the profuse and imprudent violence of his 
letters became, in a sense, its own protection. People came 
to believe that this was the breezy style appropriate to our 
guardians of the deep, and the old Admiral swept forward on 
his stormy course. 

To me, in this period of preparation, the arrival of his 
letters was always a source of lively interest and pleasure. I 
was regaled with eight or ten closely- written double pages, 
fastened together with a little pearl pin or a scrap of silken 
ribbon, and containing every kind of news and counsel, vary- 
ing from blistering reproach to the highest forms of inspira- 
tion and encouragement. From the very beginning his let- 
ters were couched in an affectionate and paternal style. " My 
beloved Winston," they began, ending usually with a varia- 
tion of "Yours to a cinder," " Yours till Hell freezes," or 
"Till charcoal sprouts," followed by a P.S. and two or three 
more pages of pregnant and brilliant matter. I have found it 
impossible to re-read these letters without sentiments of strong 
regard for him, his fiery soul, his volcanic energy, his deep 
creative mind, his fierce outspoken hatreds, his love of Eng- 
land. Alas, there was a day when Hell froze and charcoal 
sprouted and friendship was reduced to cinders; when "My 
beloved Winston" had given place to "First Lord: I can no 
longer be your colleague." I am glad to be able to chronicle 
that this was not the end of our long and intimate relationship. 

Sir Arthur Wilson, the First Sea Lord, received me with 
his customary dignified simplicity. He could not, of course, 
be wholly unaware of the main causes which had brought me 
to the Admiralty. In conversation with the other Sea Lords 
when the well-kept secret of my appointment first reached the 
Admiralty, he said: "We are to have new masters: if they 


wish us to serve them, we will do so, and if not, they will find 
others to carry on the work." I had only met him hitherto 
at the conferences of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and 
my opinions were divided between an admiration for all I 
heard of his character and a total disagreement with what 
I understood to be his strategic views. He considered the 
creation of a War Staff quite unnecessary: I had come to 
set one up. He did not approve of the War Office plans 
for sending an army to France in the event of war: I con- 
sidered it my duty to perfect these arrangements to the 
smallest detail. He was, as I believed, still an advocate of 
a close blockade of the German ports, which to my lay or 
military mind the torpedo seemed already to have rendered 
impossible. 1 These were large and vital differences. He on 
his side probably thought we had got into an unnecessary 
panic over the Agadir crisis, and that we did not properly un- 
derstand the strength and mobility of the British Fleet nor the 
true character of British strategic power. He was due to re- 
tire for age from the Service in three or four months, unless his 
tenure had been extended, while I, for my part, came to the 
Admiralty with a very clear intention to have an entirely 
new Board of my own choosing. In these circumstances our 
association was bound to be bleak. 

This is, however, the moment for me to give an impres- 
sion of this striking naval personality. He was, without 
any exception, the most selfless man I have ever met or even 
read of. He wanted nothing, and he feared nothing — ab- 
solutely nothing. Whether he was commanding the British 
Fleet or repairing an old motor-car, he was equally keen, 
equally interested, equally content. To step from a great 
office into absolute retirement, to return from retirement to 
the pinnacle of naval power, were transitions which produced 

1 The close blockade of the German ports was prescribed in the 
war orders of 1909, during Lord Fisher's term of office. Sir Arthur 
Wilson did not reveal any modification, which he had made in conse- 
quence of new conditions to anyone. 


no change in the beat of that constant heart. Everything was 
duty. It was not merely that nothing else mattered. There 
was nothing else. One did one's duty as well as one possibly 
could, be it great or small, and naturally one deserved no re- 
ward. This had been the spirit in which he had lived his long 
life afloat, and which by his example he had spread far and wide 
through the ranks of the Navy. It made him seem very un- 
sympathetic on many occasions, both to officers and men. 
Orders were orders, whether they terminated an officer's pro- 
fessional career or led him on to fame, whether they involved 
the most pleasant or the most disagreeable work; and he would 
snap his teeth and smile his wintry smile to all complaints 
and to sentiment and emotion in every form. Never once 
did I see his composure disturbed. He never opened up, 
never unbent. Never once, until a very dark day for me, did 
I learn that my work had met with favour in his eyes. 

All the same, for all his unsympathetic methods, "Tug," 
as he was generally called (because he was always working, 
i. e., pulling, hauling, tugging), or alternatively "old 'Ard 
'Art," was greatly loved in the Fleet. Men would do hard 
and unpleasant work even when they doubted its necessity, 
because he had ordered it and it was "his way." He had 
served as a midshipman in the Crimean War. Every one 
knew the story of his V.C., when the square broke at Tamai in 
the Soudan, and when he was seen, with the ammunition of 
his Gatling exhausted, knocking the Dervish spearmen over 
one after another with his fists, using the broken hilt of his 
sword as a sort of knuckle duster. Stories were told of his 
apparent insensibility to weather and climate. He would 
wear a thin monkey-jacket in mid-winter in the North Sea 
with apparent comfort while every one else was shivering in 
great coats. He would stand bareheaded under a tropical 
sun without ill effects. He had a strong inventive turn of 
mind, and considerable mechanical knowledge. The system 
of counter-mining in use for forty years in the Navy, and 


the masthead semaphore which continued till displaced by 
wireless telegraphy, were both products of his ingenuity. 
He was an experienced and masterly commander of a Fleet 
at sea. In addition to this he expressed himself with great 
clearness and thoroughness on paper, many of his documents 
being extended arguments of exact detail and widely compre- 
hensive scope. He impressed me from the first as a man of 
the highest quality and stature, but, as I thought, dwelling 
too much in the past of naval science, not sufficiently re- 
ceptive of new ideas when conditions were changing so 
rapidly, and, of course, tenacious and unyielding in the last 

After we had had several preliminary talks and I found we 
were not likely to reach an agreement, I sent him a minute 
about the creation of a Naval War Staff, which raised an un- 
mistakable issue. He met it by a powerfully reasoned and 
unqualified refusal, and I then determined to form a new 
Board of Admiralty without delay. The Lords of the Ad- 
miralty hold quasi-ministerial appointments, and it was of 
course necessary to put my proposals before the Prime Min- 
ister and obtain his assent. 

Mr, Churchill to the Prime Minister, 

H.M.S. Enchantress, 
November 5, 191 1. 
The enclosed memorandum from Sir A. Wilson is decisive in 
its opposition, not only to any particular scheme, but against 
the whole principle of a War Staff for the Navy. Ottley's 1 
rejoinder, which I also send you, shows that it would not be 
difficult to continue the argument. But I feel that this 
might easily degenerate into personal controversy, and would, 
in any case, be quite unavailing. I like Sir A. Wilson per- 
sonally, and should be very sorry to run the risk of embitter- 

J Sir Charles Ottley: at that time Secretary to the Committee of 
Imperial Defence. 


ing relations which are now pleasant. I therefore propose to 
take no public action during his tenure. 

If Wilson retires in the ordinary course in March, I shall 
be left without a First Sea Lord in the middle of the passage of 
the Estimates, and his successor will not be able to take any 
real responsibility for them. It is necessary, therefore, that 
the change should be made in January at the latest. 

I could, if it were imperative, propose to you a new Board 
for submission to the King at once. The field of selection for 
the first place is narrow; and since I have, with a good deal of 
reluctance, abandoned the idea of bringing Fisher back, no 
striking appointment is possible. I may, however, just as 
well enjoy the advantage of reserving a final choice for an- 
other month. At present, therefore, I will only say that Prince 
Louis is certainly the best man to be Second Sea Lord, that I 
find myself in cordial agreement with him on nearly every 
important question of naval policy, and that he will accept the 
appointment gladly. ... I should thus hope to start in the 
New Year with a united and progressive Board, and with the 
goodwill of both the factions whose animosities have done so 
much harm. 

Meanwhile I am elaborating the scheme of a War Staff. 

Mr. Churchill to the Prime Minister. 

November 16, 191 1. 
I have now to put before you my proposals for a new Board 
of Admiralty, and the changes consequent thereupon. Having 
now seen all the principal officers who might be considered 
candidates for such a post, I pronounce decidedly in favour 
of Sir Francis Bridgeman as First Sea Lord. He is a fine 
sailor, with the full confidence of the Service afloat, and with 
the aptitude for working with and through a staff, well devel- 
oped. If, as would no doubt be the case, he should bring 
Captain de Bartolome as his Naval Assistant, I am satisfied 
that the work of this office would proceed smoothly and with 
despatch. I have discussed the principal questions of strategy, 
administration and finance with him, and believe that we are 
in general agreement on fundamental principles. If you ap- 
prove, I will write to Sir Francis and enter more fully into 
these matters in connection with an assumption by him of 
these new duties. 


This appointment harmonises, personally and adminis- 
tratively, with that of the new Second Sea Lord, Prince 
Louis of Battenberg, of whom I have already written to you, 
and of whose assistance I have the highest expectations. 
Rear-Admiral Briggs, the Controller and Third Sea Lord, has, 
after a year, just begun to acquire a complete knowledge of 
his very extensive department, and I do not think it necessary 
to transfer him at the present time. He will be the only 
naval member of the old Board to remain. Rear- Admiral 
Madden is, in any case, leaving on January 5, and I am ad- 
vised from all quarters, including both the proposed First and 
Second Sea Lords, that the best man to fill his place is Captain 
Pakenham. This officer, who is very highly thought of for 
his intellectual attainments, has also the rare distinction of 
having served throughout the Russo-Japanese War, including 
the battle of the Tsushima. 

The Home Fleet, which becomes vacant, has not, unhappily, 
any candidate of clear and pre-eminent qualifications. Ad- 
miral Jellicoe is not yet sufficiently in command of the confi- 
dence of the Sea Service, to justify what would necessarily be a 
very startling promotion. I shall, however, be taking the per- 
fectly straightforward and unexceptionable course in placing 
Vice-Admiral Sir George Callaghan, the present Second in 
Command, who has been in almost daily control of the largest 
manoeuvres of the Home Fleet, and who has previously been 
Second in Command in the Mediterranean, in the place of Sir 
F. Bridgeman. Sir John Jellicoe will be his Second in Com- 
mand, and we shall thus be able to see what fitness he will 
develop for the succession. 

It appears to me not merely important but necessary that 
these changes should operate without delay. The draft 
Estimates have all arrived for discussion, and a month of the 
most severe work, governing the whole future policy of the 
next two years, awaits the Board of Admiralty. This task 
can only be satisfactorily discharged if it is undertaken by 
men who come together with consenting minds, and who will 
find themselves responsible to the Cabinet and to Parliament 
for the immediate consequences of their decisions. I would 
therefore ask you to authorise me to approach all parties 
concerned without delay, and unless some unexpected hitch 
occurs I shall hope to submit the list to the King not later 


than Wednesday next. The New Board would thus be fully- 
constituted before the end of the present month. 

Afloat the decisive appointment was that of Sir John Jellicoe 
to be second in command of the Home Fleet. He thus in 
effect passed over the heads of four or five of the most impor- 
tant senior Admirals on the active list and became virtually 
designated for the supreme command in the near future. 

The announcement of these changes (November 28) created 
a considerable sensation in the House of Commons when, 
late at night, they became known. All the Sea Lords, except 
one, had been replaced by new men. I was immediately in- 
terrogated, "Had they resigned, or been told to go?" and 
so on. I gave briefly such explanations as were necessary. 
At this time I was very strong, because most of those who 
knew the inner history of the Agadir crisis were troubled about 
the Fleet, and it was well known that I had been sent to the 
Admiralty to make a new and a vehement effort. 

Sir Arthur Wilson and I parted on friendly, civil, but at 
the same time cool terms. He showed not the least resent- 
ment at the short curtailment of his tenure. He was as good- 
tempered and as distant as ever. Only once did he show 
the slightest sign of vehemence. That was when I told him 
that the Prime Minister was willing to submit his name to 
the King for a Peerage. He disengaged himself from this 
with much vigour. What would he do with such a thing? 
It would be ridiculous. However, His Majesty resolved to 
confer upon him the Order of Merit, and this he was finally 
persuaded to accept. On his last night in office he gave a 
dinner to the new Sea Lords in the true "band of brothers" 
style, and then retired to Norfolk. I could not help think- 
ing uncomfortably of the famous Tenniel cartoon, " Drop- 
ping the Pilot," where the inexperienced and impulsive Ger- 
man Emperor is depicted carelessly watching the venerable 
figure of Bismarck descending the ladder. Nevertheless I 


had acted on high public grounds and on those alone, and 
I fortified myself with them. 

As will be seen in its proper place, Sir Arthur Wilson came 
back to the Admiralty three years later, and worked with 
Lord Fisher and me during the six months of our association 
in the war. When Lord Fisher resigned in May, 19 15, I in- 
vited Sir Arthur to take up the duties of First Sea Lord and 
he consented to do so. On learning, however, a few days 
later that I was to leave the Admiralty, he wrote to Mr. As- 
quith refusing to undertake the task under any other First 
Lord but me. Here is his letter: — 

Dear Mr. Asquith, — / x 9> I 9 I 5- 

In view of the reports in the papers this morning as to the 
probable reconstruction of the Government, I think I ought 
to tell you that although I agreed to undertake the office of 
First Sea Lord under Mr. Churchill because it appeared to me 
to be the best means of maintaining continuity of policy 
under the unfortunate circumstances that have arisen, I am 
not prepared to undertake the duties under any new First 
Lord, as the strain under such circumstances would be far 
beyond my strength. 

Believe me, 

Yours truly, 

A. K. Wilson. 

At that time I hardly seemed to have a friend in the official 
or Parliamentary world. All the press were throwing the 
blame of the Dardanelles entanglement and of many other 
things upon me, and I was everywhere represented as a rash, 
presumptuous person with whom no Board of Admiralty 
could work. Sir Arthur had never previously given me any 
sign of approval, though, of course, we had laboured together 
day after day. I was, therefore, astounded to learn what he 
had done. It came as an absolute surprise to me: and I do 
not mind saying that I felt as proud as a young officer men- 


tioned for the first time in dispatches. I thought it my duty, 
however, to try to overcome his objections, as I knew the 
Prime Minister wanted him to take the post. But it was all 
in vain. He stuck to his opinion that he could do it with me 
and with nobody else. I felt deeply touched. There was noth- 
ing to be touched about, he observed, "You know all the moves 
on the board. I should only have to put the brake on from 
time to time. I could not possibly manage with anyone else." 
And that was the end of it. He continued working in a sub- 
ordinate position at the Admiralty till the end of the war. 
I hardly ever saw him afterwards; but I have preserved a 
memory which is very precious to me. 

The new Fourth Sea Lord was an officer of singular firm- 
ness of character. He possessed a unique experience of naval 
war. Since Nelson himself, no British naval officer had been so 
long at sea in time of war on a ship of war without setting foot 
on land. Captain Pakenham had been fourteen months afloat 
in the battleship Asahi during the war between Russia and 
Japan. Although this vessel was frequently in harbour, 
he would not leave it for fear she might sail without him; 
and there alone, the sole European in a great ship's company 
of valiant, reticent, inscrutable Japanese, he had gone through 
the long vigil outside Port Arthur, with its repeated episodes 
of minefields and bombardments, till the final battle in the 
Sea of Japan. Always faultlessly attired, with stiff white col- 
lar and an immovable eye-glass, he matched the Japanese with 
a punctilio and reserve the equal of their own, and finally 
captivated their martial spirit and won their unstinted and 
outspoken admiration. Admiral Togo has related how the 
English officer, as the Asahi was going into action at the 
last great battle, when the heavy shells had already begun 
to strike the ship, remained impassive alone on the open after- 
bridge making his notes and taking his observations of the 
developing action for the reports which he was to send to his 
Government; and acclaiming him, with Japanese chivalry, 


recommended him to the Emperor for the highest honour this 
war-like and knightly people could bestow. 

The unique sea-going record in time of war on a ship of 
war which Captain Pakenham brought to the Admiralty has 
been maintained by him to this day, and to fourteen months 
of sea-going service with the Japanese Fleet, he may now add 
fifty-two months constant service with the Battle-Cruisers, 
during which time it is credibly reported that he never on 
any occasion at sea lay down to rest otherwise than fully 
dressed, collared and booted, ready at any moment of the 
night or day. 

A few weeks after my arrival at the Admiralty I was told 
that among several officers of Flag rank who wished to see 
me was Rear- Admiral Beatty. I had never met him before, 
but I had the following impressions about him. First, that he 
was the youngest Flag Officer in the Fleet. Second, that he 
had commanded the white gunboat which had come up the 
Nile as close as possible to support the 21st Lancers when 
we made the charge at Omdurman. Third, that he had seen 
a lot of righting on land with the army, and that consequently 
he had military as well as naval experience. Fourth, that 
he came of a hard-riding stock; his father had been in my 
own regiment, the 4th Hussars, and I had often heard him 
talked of when I first joined. The Admiral, I knew, was a 
very fine horseman, with what is called "an eye for coun- 
try. " Fifth, that there was much talk in naval circles of his 
having been pushed on too fast. Such were the impressions 
aroused in my mind by the name of this officer, and I record 
them with minuteness because the decisions which I had the 
honour of taking in regard to him were most serviceable to 
the Royal Navy and to the British arms. 

I was, however, advised about him at the Admiralty in a 
decisively adverse sense. He had got on too fast, he had many 
interests ashore. His heart it was said was not wholly in the 
Service. He had been offered an appointment in the Atlantic 


Fleet suited to his rank as Rear-Admiral. He had declined this 
appointment — a very serious step for a Naval Officer to take 
when appointments were few in proportion to candidates — 
and he should in consequence not be offered any further em- 
ployment. It would be contrary to precedent to make a 
further offer. He had already been unemployed for eigh- 
teen months, and would probably be retired in the ordinary 
course at the expiration of the full three years' unemploy- 

But my first meeting with the Admiral induced me imme- 
diately to disregard this unfortunate advice. He became at 
once my Naval Secretary (or Private Secretary, as the ap- 
pointment was then styled). Working thus side by side in 
rooms which communicated, we perpetually discussed during 
the next fifteen months the problems of a naval war with Ger- 
many. It became increasingly clear to me that he viewed 
questions of naval strategy and tactics in a different light 
from the average naval officer: he approached them, as it 
seemed to me, much more as a soldier would. His war experi- 
ences on land had illuminated the facts he had acquired in his 
naval training. He was no mere instrumentalist. He did not 
think of materiel as an end in itself but only as a means. He 
thought of war problems in their unity by land, sea and air. 
His mind had been rendered quick and supple by the situa- 
tions of polo and the hunting-field, and enriched by varied ex- 
periences against the enemy on Nile gunboats, and ashore. 
It was with equal pleasure and profit that I discussed with 
him our naval problem, now from this angle, now from that; 
and I was increasingly struck with the shrewd and profound 
sagacity of his comments expressed in language singularly 
free from technical jargon. 

I had no doubts whatever when the command of the Battle- 
Cruiser Squadron fell vacant in the spring of 19 13, in appoint- 
ing him over the heads of all to this incomparable command, 
the nucleus as it proved to be of the famous Battle-Cruiser 


Fleet — the strategic cavalry of the Royal Navy, that supreme 
combination of speed and power to which the thoughts of 
the Admiralty were continuously directed. And when two 
years later (February 3, 19 15) I visited him on board the Lion, 
with the scars of victorious battle fresh upon her from the 
action of the Dogger Bank, I heard from his Captains and his 
Admirals the expression of their respectful but intense enthusi- 
asm for their leader. Well do I remember how, as I was leav- 
ing the ship, the usually imperturbable Admiral Pakenham 
caught me by the sleeve, " First Lord, I wish to speak to you 
in private/' and the restrained passion in his voice as he said, 
"Nelson has come again." Those words often recurred to my 

So much of my work in endeavouring to prepare the Fleet 
for war was dependent upon the guidance and help I received 
from Prince Louis of Battenberg, who, taking it as a whole, 
was my principal counsellor, as Second Sea Lord from Jan- 
uary, 1912, to March, 1913 (when Sir Francis Bridgeman's 
health temporarily failed), and as First Sea Lord thence- 
forward to the end of October, 19 14, that it is necessary to 
give some description of this remarkable Prince and British 
sailor. All the more is this necessary since the accident of 
his parentage struck him down in the opening months of the 
Great War and terminated his long professional career. 

Prince Louis was a child of the Royal Navy. From his ear- 
liest years he had been bred to the sea. The deck of a British 
warship was his home. All his interest was centred in the 
British Fleet. So far from his exalted rank having helped him 
it had hindered his career: up to a certain point no doubt it 
had been of assistance, but after that it had been a positive 
drawback. In consequence he had spent an exceptionally 
large proportion of his forty years' service afloat usually in 
the less agreeable commands. One had heard at Malta how 
he used to bring his Cruiser Squadron into that small, crowded 
harbour at speed and then in the nick of time, with scarcely 


a hundred yards to spare, by dropping his anchors, checking on 
his cables and going full speed astern, bring it safely into sta- 
tion. He had a far wider knowledge of war by land and sea 
and of the Continent of Europe than most of the other Ad- 
mirals I have known. His brother, as King of Bulgaria, had 
shown military aptitudes of a very high order at the Battle 
of Slivnitza, and he himself was deeply versed in every detail, 
practical and theoretic, of the British Naval Service. It was 
not without good reason that he had been appointed under Lord 
Fisher to be Head of the British Naval Intelligence Depart- 
ment, that vital ganglion of our organisation. He was a 
thoroughly trained and accomplished Staff Officer, with a gift 
of clear and lucid statement and all that thoroughness and 
patient industry which we have never underestimated in the 
German race. 

It was recounted of him that on one occasion, when he 
visited Kiel with King Edward, a German Admiral in high 
command had reproached him with serving in the British Fleet, 
whereat Prince Louis, stiffening, had replied "Sir, when I 
joined the Royal Navy in the year 1868, the German Empire 
did not exist." 

The part which he played in the events with which I am 
dealing will be recorded as the story unfolds. 

Our first labour was the creation of the War Staff. All the 
details of this were worked out by Prince Louis and approved 
by the First Sea Lord. I also resorted to Sir Douglas Haig, 
at that time in command at Aldershot. The general furnished 
me with a masterly paper setting forth the military doctrine 
of Staff organisation and constituting in many respects a 
formidable commentary on existing naval methods. Armed 
with these various opinions, I presented my conclusions to 
the public in January, 191 2, in a document of which the first 
two paragraphs may be repeated here. They were, as will be 
seen, designed so far as possible to disarm the prejudices of 
the naval service. 


1. In establishing a War Staff for the Navy it is necessary 
to observe the broad differences of character and circum- 
stances which distinguish naval from military problems. 
War on land varies in every country according to numberless 
local conditions, and each new theatre, like each separate 
battle-field, requires a special study. A whole series of in- 
tricate arrangements must be thought out and got ready for 
each particular case; and these are expanded and refined con- 
tinuously by every increase in the size of armies, and by 
every step towards the perfection of military science. The 
means by which superior forces can be brought to decisive 
points in good condition and at the right time are no whit less 
vital, and involve far more elaborate processes than the stra- 
tegic choice of those points, or the actual conduct of the 
fighting. The sea, on the other hand, is all one, and, though 
ever changing, always the same. Every ship is self-contained 
and self-propelled. The problems of transport and supply, 
the infinite peculiarities of topography which are the increas- 
ing study of the general staffs of Europe, do not affect the 
naval service except in an occasional and limited degree. 
The main part of the British Fleet in sufficient strength to seek 
a general battle is always ready to proceed to sea without any 
mobilisation of reserves as soon as steam is raised. Ships or 
fleets of ships are capable of free and continuous movement 
for many days and nights together, and travel at least as 
far in an hour as an army can march in a day. Every vessel 
is in instant communication with its fleet and with the Ad- 
miralty, and all can be directed from the ports where they 
are stationed on any sea points chosen for massing, by a 
short and simple order. Unit efficiency, that is to say, the 
individual fighting power of each vessel and each man, is in 
the sea service for considerable periods entirely independent 
of all external arrangements, and unit efficiency at sea, far 
more even than on land, is the prime and final factor, without 
which the combinations of strategy and tactics are only the 
preliminaries of defeat, but with which even faulty disposi- 
tions can be swiftly and decisively retrieved. For these and 
other similar reasons a Naval War Staff does not require to 
be designed on the same scale or in the same form as the 
General Staff of the Army. 

2. Naval war is at once more simple and more intense 


than war on land. The executive action and control of fleet 
and squadron Commanders is direct and personal in a far 
stronger degree than that of Generals in the field, especially 
under modern conditions. The art of handling a great fleet 
on important occasions with deft and sure judgment is the 
supreme gift of the Admiral, and practical seamanship must 
never be displaced from its position as the first qualification 
of every sailor. The formation of a War Staff does not mean 
the setting up of new standards of professional merit or the 
opening of a road of advancement to a different class of of- 
ficers. It is to be the means of preparing and training those 
officers who arrive, or are likely to arrive, by the excellence of 
their sea service at stations of high responsibility, for dealing 
with the more extended problems which await them there. 
It is to be the means of sifting, developing, and applying the 
results of actual experience in history and present practice, 
and of preserving them as a general stock of reasoned opinion 
available as an aid and as a guide for all who are called upon 
to determine, in peace or war, the naval policy of the coun- 
try. It is to be a brain far more comprehensive than that of 
any single man, however gifted, and tireless and unceasing 
in its action, applied continuously to the scientific and specu- 
lative study of naval strategy and preparation. It is to be 
an instrument capable of formulating any decision which has 
been taken, or may be taken, by the Executive in terms of 
precise and exhaustive detail. 

I never ceased to labour at the formation of a true General 
Staff for the Navy. In May, 1914, basing myself on the re- 
port of a Committee which I had set up a year before, I 
drafted a fairly complete scheme for the further development 
of Staff training. I quote a salient passage: 1 

It is necessary to draw a distinction between the measures 
required to secure a general diffusion of military knowledge 
among naval officers and the definite processes by which 
Staff Officers are trained. The first may be called " Military 
Education," and the second "War Staff Training." They 
require to be treated separately and not mixed together as 

*The memorandum abridged can be read in Appendix A. 


in the report of the Committee. Both must again be dis- 
tinguished from all questions of administration, of material, 
and of non-military education and training. The application 
of fighting power can thus be separated from its development. 
We are not now concerned with the forging of the weapon, 
but only with its use. 

'As early as possible in his service the mind of the young 
officer must be turned to the broad principles of war by sea 
and land. His interest must be awakened. He must be put 
in touch with the right books and must be made to feel the 
importance of the military aspect of his profession. . . .' 

But it takes a generation to form a General Staff. No 
wave of the wand can create those habits of mind in seniors 
on which the efficiency and even the reality of a Staff depends. 
Young officers can be trained, but thereafter they have to 
rise step by step in the passage of time to positions of author- 
ity in the Service. The dead weight of professional opinion 
was adverse. They had got on well enough without it before. 
They did not want a special class of officer professing to be 
more brainy than the rest. Sea-time should be the main 
qualification, and next to that technical aptitudes. Thus 
when I went to the Admiralty I found that there was no mo- 
ment in the career and training of a naval officer, when he was 
obliged to read a single book about naval war, or pass even 
the most rudimentary examination in naval history. The 
Royal Navy had made no important contribution to Naval 
literature. The standard work on Sea Power was written by 
an American Admiral. 1 The best accounts of British sea 
fighting and naval strategy were compiled by an English 
civilian. 2 'The Silent Service' was not mute because it was 
absorbed in thought and study, but because it was weighted 
down by its daily routine and by its ever complicating and 
diversifying technique. We had competent administrators, 
brilliant experts of every description, unequalled navigators, 

Admiral Mahan. 2 Sir Julian Corbett. 


good disciplinarians, fine sea-officers, brave and devoted 
hearts: but at the outset of the conflict we had more captains 
of ships than captains of war. In this will be found the ex- 
planation of many untoward events. At least fifteen years of 
consistent policy were required to give the Royal Navy that 
widely extended outlook upon war problems and of war situa- 
tions without which seamanship, gunnery, instrumentalisms 
of every kind, devotion of the highest order, could not achieve 
their due reward. 
Fifteen years ! And we were only to have thirty months ! 



'The young disease, that must subdue at length, 
Grows with his growth, and strengthens with his strength.' 

Pope, Essay on Man. 

The Morrow of Agadir — Mission of Sir Ernest Cassel — The New Ger- 
man Navy Law — The Haldane Visit to Berlin — An Imperial 
Mare's Nest — The Opening of the Reichstag — A Speech at Glas- 
gow — The Luxus Flotte — Mr. Haldane Returns — Attempt to 
reach a Settlement — Correspondence with Lord Fisher — Fisher's 
Vision — The Navy Estimates — The Naval Holiday — Efforts at 
Goodwill — Consequences of German Naval Power — Von Tir- 
pitz' Illusions — Anglo-French Naval Conversations — The En- 
tente strengthened — Von Tirpitz' Unwisdom — Organisation of 
the Navy — The New Structure — With the Fleet — The Enchantress 
in Portland Harbour — The Safeguard of Freedom. 

HAVE shown how forward the Chancellor of the Ex- 
•*- chequer was during the crisis of Agadir in every matter 
that could add to the strength of the British attitude. But as 
soon as the danger was passed he adopted a different de- 
meanour. He felt that an effort should be made to heal any 
smart from which Germany might be suffering, and to arrive 
at a common understanding on naval strength. We knew 
that a formidable new Navy Law was in preparation and 
would shortly be declared. If Germany had definitely made 
up her mind to antagonise Great Britain, we must take up the 
challenge; but it might be possible by friendly, sincere and 
intimate conversation to avert this perilous development. 
We were no enemies to German Colonial expansion, and we 
would even have taken active steps to further her wishes in 
this respect. Surely something could be done to break the 
chain of blind causation. If aiding Germany in the Colonial 



sphere was a means of procuring a stable situation, it was a % 
price we were well prepared to pay. I was in full accord with 
this view. Apart from wider reasons, I felt I should be all the 
stronger in asking the Cabinet and the House of Commons 
for the necessary monies, if I could go hand in hand with 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer and testify that we had tried 
our best to secure a mitigation of the naval rivalry and 
failed. We therefore jointly consulted Sir Edward Grey, and 
then with the Prime Minister's concurrence we invited Sir &, 
Ernest Cassel to go to Berlin and get into direct touch with the 
Emperor. Sir Ernest was qualified for this task, as he knew 
the Emperor well and was at the same time devoted to Brit- 
ish interests. We armed him with a brief but pregnant mem- 
orandum, which cannot be more tersely summarized than in 
von Bethmann-Hollweg's own words 1 : 'Acceptance of English 
superiority at sea — no augmentation of the German naval pro- 
gramme — a reduction as far as possible of that programme — 
and on the part of England, no impediment to our Colonial 
expansion — discussion and promotion of our Colonial am- 
bitions — proposals for mutual declarations that the two 
Powers would not take part in aggressive plans or combina- 
tions against one another.' Cassel accepted the charge and 
started at once. He remained only two days in Berlin and came 
at once to me on his return. He brought with him a cordial 
letter from the Emperor and a fairly full statement by von Beth- 
mann-Hollweg of the new German Navy Law. We devoured 
this invaluable document all night long in the Admiralty, and < &> 
in the morning I wrote as follows to Sir Edward Grey : — 

January 31, 191 2. 
Cassel returned last night, having travelled continuously 
from Berlin. At 10 a.m. on Monday he saw Ballin, who 
went forthwith to the German Chancellor, and in the after- 
noon he saw Ballin, Bethmann-Hollweg and the Emperor to- 
gether. They all appeared deeply pleased by the overture. 

1 Reflections on the World War, v. Bethmann-Hollweg, p. 48. 


Bethmann-Hollweg, earnest and cordial, the Emperor 'en- 
chanted, almost childishly so.' The Emperor talked a great 
deal on naval matters to Cassel, the details of which he was 
unable to follow. After much consultation the Emperor 
wrote out with Bethmann-Hollweg paper, 'A/ which Ballin 
transcribed. The second paper, 'B/ is Bethmann-Hollweg's 
statement of the impending naval increases, translated by 
Cassel. Cassel says they did not seem to know what they 
wanted in regard to colonies. They did not seem to be greatly 
concerned about expansion. ' There were ten large companies 
in Berlin importing labour into Germany.' Over-population 
was not their problem. They were delighted with Cassel's 
rough notes of our ideas. They are most anxious to hear 
from us soon. . . . 
Such is my report. 


It seems certain that the new Navy Law will be presented 
to the Reichstag, and that it will be agreed to, even the So- 
cialists not resisting. The naval increases are serious, and 
will require new and vigorous measures on our part. The 
spirit may be good, but the facts are grim. I had been think- 
ing that if the old German programme had been adhered to, 
we should have built 4, 3, 4, 3, 4, 3, against their six years' 
programme of 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2. If their new programme stands, 
as I fear it must, and they build 3, 2, 3, 2, 3, 2, we cannot build 
less than 5, 4, 5, 4, 5, 4. This maintains 60 per cent, superi- 
ority in Dreadnoughts and Dreadnought Cruisers over Ger- 
many only. It will also be 2 keels to 1 on their additional 3 

The creation of a third squadron in full commission is also 
a serious and formidable provision. At present, owing to the 
fact that in the six winter months the first and second squad- 
rons of the High Sea Fleet are congested with recruits, there 
is a great relief to us from the strain to which we are put by 
German naval power. The addition of the third squadron 
will make that strain continual throughout the year. The 
maintenance in full commission of 25 battleships, which after 
the next four or five years will all be Dreadnoughts, exposes 
us to constant danger, only to be warded off by vigilance ap- 
proximating to war conditions. A further assurance against 


attack is at present found in the fact that several of the German 
Dreadnoughts are very often the wrong side of the Kiel Canal, 
which they cannot pass through and must therefore make a 
long detour. The deepening of the Canal by 1913 will extin- 
guish this safety signal. 1 The fact that the defenders are al- 
ways liable to be attacked while only at their ordinary average 
strength by an enemy at his selected moment and consequent 
maximum strength, means that our margins would have to 
be very large. Against 25 battleships we could not keep less 
than 40 available within twenty-four hours. This will involve 
additional expense. 

The German increase in personnel must also be met. I had 
intended to ask Parliament for 2,000 more men this year and 
2,000 next. I expect to have to double these quotas. On the 
whole the addition to our estimates consequent upon German 
increases will not be less than three millions a year. This is 
certainly not dropping the naval challenge. 

I agree with you that caution is necessary. In order to 
meet the new German squadron, we are contemplating bring- 
ing home the Mediterranean battleships. This means relying 
on France in the Mediterranean, 2 and certainly no exchange 
of system 3 would be possible, even if desired by you. 

The only chance I see is roughly this. They will announce 
their new programme, and we will make an immediate and 
effective reply. Then if they care to slow down the ' tempo ' 
so that their Fleet Law is accomplished in twelve and not in 
six years, friendly relations would ensue, and we, though I 
should be reluctant to bargain about it, could slow down too. 
All they would have to do, would be to make their quotas 
biennial instead of annual. Nothing would be deranged in 
their plan. Twelve years of tranquillity would be assured in 
naval policy. The attempt ought to be made. 

We laid these matters before the Cabinet, who decided 
that a British Cabinet Minister should go to Berlin and 
selected Mr. Haldane for that purpose. The ex-Emperor in 
his Memoirs makes a ridiculous story out of this: — 

1 It was not in fact completed till August, 1914. 

2 By later decision a Squadron of British Battle-cruisers was stationed 
in the Mediterranean. 

3 i.e. The Entente. 


'. . . a keen dispute had arisen among Ministers — espe- 
cially between Churchill and Grey — as to who should go to 
Berlin, in the event of the achievement of the object of mak- 
ing Germany abandon the further development of her fleet, 
and affix his name to this great historical document. Churchill 
considered himself the right man for the job, seeing that he 
was the head of the Navy, but Grey and Asquith would not 
allow their colleague to reap the glory. Thus for a time, 
Grey stood in the foreground — another proof that some po- 
litical purpose rather than the number of ships was the lead- 
ing factor. After a while, however, it was decided that it 
was more fitting to Grey's personal and official importance 
that he should appear only at the termination of the nego- 
tiations, to affix his name to the agreement, and . . . "to 
get his dinner from the Emperor and to come in for his part 
of the festivities and fireworks, " which, in good German, 
means to enjoy the "Bengal light illumination. " As it had 
been decided that in any event Churchill was not to get this, 
it was necessary to choose somebody for the negotiations who 
was in close accord with Asquith and Grey and who, possess- 
ing their complete confidence, was willing to conduct the 
negotiations as far as the beginning of the "fireworks"; one, 
moreover, who was already known at Berlin and not a stranger 
to Germany. Churchill certainly qualified to this extent, for 
he had attended the Imperial manoeuvres in Silesia and Wur- 
temberg on several occasions as a guest of the Emperor.' 

On this it may be observed that there never was any ques- ^ 
tion of my going to Berlin to negotiate about the Navy; nor 
did I at this time wish to go. All the British ministers con- 
cerned worked together in the utmost accord. After full dis- 
cussions we authorized Sir Ernest Cassel to send the following 
telegram: — 

Sir E. Cassel to Herr Ballin (drafted by Sir E. Cassel, the First 
Lord, Mr. Haldane, Sir Edward Grey). 

February 3, 191 2. 
spirit in which statements of German Government have 
been made is most cordially appreciated here. New German 
programme would entail serious and immediate increase of 


British naval expenditure which was based on assumption 
that existing German naval programme would be adhered to. 

If the British Government are compelled to make such 
increase, it would make negotiations difficult if not impossi- 

If, on the other hand, German naval expenditure can be 
adapted by an alteration of the tempo or otherwise so as to 
render any serious increase unnecessary to meet German pro- 
gramme, British Government will be prepared at once to 
pursue negotiations on the understanding that the point of 
naval expenditure is open to discussion and that there is a fair 
prospect of settling it favourably. 

If this understanding is acceptable, the British Govern- 
ment will forthwith suggest the next step, as they think that 
the visit of a British Minister to Berlin should in the first 
instance be private and unofficial. 

All being acceptable, the Secretary of State for War accom- 
panied by Sir Ernest Cassel, started accordingly on February 
6 for Berlin. 

I had undertaken some weeks earlier to make a speech in 
support of the Home Rule Bill in Belfast. Violent hostility 
to this project developed in the inflammable capital of Ulster. 
Being publicly committed, I had no choice but to fulfil my 
engagement, though to avoid unnecessary provocation the 
meeting-place was changed from the Ulster Hall to a large 
tent which was erected in the outskirts of the city. Threats 
of violence and riot were loudly proclaimed on every side 
and nearly io,ooo troops were concentrated in the area to 
keep the peace. I had planned, if all went well at Belfast, 
to go on the next day to Glasgow to inspect some of the 
shipbuilding works along the Clyde, and to make a speech 
on the Naval position, which should state very plainly our 
root intentions and be the necessary counterpart of the Hal- 
dane mission. As I was waiting for the train for Ireland to 
leave the London railway station, I read in the late edition of 
the evening papers the German Emperor's speech on the 


opening of the Reichstag announcing Bills for the increase 
both of the Army and the Navy. The new Navy Law was | & 
still a secret to the British and German nations alike, but 
knowing as I did its scope and character and viewing it in 
conjunction with the Army Bill, I sustained a strong impres- 
sion at this moment of the approaching danger. One sen- 
tence, full of German self-revelation, stood out vividly. 'It 
is my constant duty and care to maintain and to strengthen 
on land and water, the power of defence of the German people, 
which has no lack of young men fit to bear arms.'' It was in- 
deed true. One thought of France with her declining birth- 
rate peering out across her fortresses into the wide German 
lands and silently reflecting on these 'young men fit to bear 
arms' of whom there was indeed 'no lack.' My mind, skip- 
ping over the day of Irish turmoil and the worry of the 
speech that lay before me, fixed upon Glasgow as the place 
where some answer to this threat of continental domination 
might perhaps be provided. Once again Europe might find 
a safeguard against military overlordship in an island which 
had never. been and never would be 'lacking in trained and t# 
hardy mariners bred from their boyhood up to the service of 
the sea.' 

Accordingly, after the Irish ordeal was over, I said at 
Glasgow: — 

'The purposes of British naval power are essentially de- 
fensive. We have no thoughts, and we have never had any 
thoughts of aggression, and we attribute no such thoughts to 
other great Powers. There is, however, this difference be- 
tween the British naval power and the naval power of the 
great and friendly Empire — and I trust it may long remain the 
great and friendly Empire — of Germany. The British Navy 
is to us a necessity and, from some points of view, the German ♦ i 
Navy is to them more in the nature of a luxury. Our naval 
power involves British existence. It is existence to us; it is 
expansion to them. \ We cannot menace the peace of a single 
Continental hamlet, no matter how great and supreme our 


Navy may become. But, on the other hand, the whole for- 
tunes of our race and Empire, the whole treasure accumu- 
lated during so many centuries of sacrifice and achievement, 
would perish and be swept utterly away if our naval suprem- 
acy were to be impaired. It is the British Navy which makes 
Great Britain a great Power. But Germany was a great 
Power, respected and honoured all over the world, before she 
had a single ship. . . . 

1 If to-day our position is eminently satisfactory we owe much 
to the foresight and resolution of Mr. McKenna. . . . What- 
ever is needed for the safety of the country will be asked for 
by the Government, and granted by the representatives of the 
nation with universal assent. There is no need for anxiety in 
regard to our shipbuilding capacity. There is no chance what- 
ever of our being overtaken in naval strength unless we want 
to be. . . . 

'But what of the men? We have to-day 135,000 men in the 
active service ratings of the Navy. The great bulk of them 
are long-service men who have begun as boys and have been 
trained as a life-long profession to the naval service. We 
have no difficulty in recruiting for the Navy . . . and there 
is no doubt whatever of our ability to make any increases 
which may be necessary, and which I think will be necessary, 
in the personnel of the Navy. We have great reserves of 
seamen in this country. There are measures which may be 
taken to make a greater use of our reserves than has hith- 
erto been found possible, and I have given directions for that 
part of the subject to be carefully studied by the naval experts 
upon whom I rely. Our reserves, both from the Royal Navy 
and from the Mercantile Marine, are a great resource, and this 
island has never been, and never will be, lacking in trained and 
hardy mariners bred from their boyhood up to the service of the 

1 Whatever may happen abroad there will be no whining here, 
no signals of distress will be hoisted, no cries for help or suc- 
cour will go up. We will face the future as our ancestors would 
have faced it, without disquiet, without arrogance, but in 
stolid and inflexible determination. We should be the first 
Power to welcome any retardation or slackening of naval 
rivalry. We should meet any such slackening not by words 
but by deeds. ... If there are to be increases upon the 


Continent of Europe, we shall have no difficulty in meeting 
them to the satisfaction of the country. As naval competition 
becomes more acute, we shall have not only to increase the number 
of the ships we build, but the ratio which our naval strength will 
have to bear to other great naval Powers, so that our margin of 
superiority will become larger and not smaller as the strain 
grows greater. Thus we shall make it clear that other naval 
Powers, instead of overtaking us by additional efforts, will 
only be more outdistanced in consequence of the measures 
which we ourselves shall take.' 

This speech created a considerable outcry in Germany, 
which was immediately re-echoed by a very large proportion 
of our own Liberal press. It appeared that the word " luxury " 
had a bad significance when translated into German. The 
l Luxus Flotte' became an expression passed angrily from lip 
to lip in Germany. As I expected, on my return to Lon- 
don I found my colleagues offended. Their congratulations 
upon Belfast were silenced by their reproaches about Glas- 
gow. Mr. Haldane returned two days later from Berlin, and 
the Cabinet was summoned to receive an account of his mis- 
sion. Contrary to general expectation, however, the Secre- 
tary of State for War declared that so far from being a hin- 
drance to him in his negotiations, the Glasgow speech had 
v^ been the greatest possible help. He had in fact used almost 
identical arguments to von Bethmann-Hollweg the day before. 
He had told the Chancellor that if Germany added a third 
squadron we should have ' to maintain five or even six squad- 
rons in home waters, perhaps bringing ships from the Medi- 
terranean to strengthen them'; that if ships were added to 
the existing programme we should c proceed at once to lay 
down two keels to each of the new German additions'; and 
that for the sake of the Navy ' people would not complain 
of the addition of another shilling to the income tax.' He 
described how he had read the operative passages in my 
speech himself to the Emperor and Von Tirpitz in proof and 
confirmation of what he had hirnself been saying during their 


previous discussions. This settled the matter so far as I was 
concerned. It was only another instance of the very manly 
and loyal part which Mr. Haldane took at all times and on 
every question connected with the preparedness of this coun- 
try for war with Germany. 

Mr. Haldane brought back with him the actual text of ^ 
the new German Navy Law, or "Novelle" as it was called. 
This had been handed to him by the Emperor during the 
course of the discussion. It was an elaborate technical docu- 
ment. Mr. Haldane had had the prudence to refuse to ex- 
press any opinion upon it till it had been examined by the 
Admiralty experts. We now subjected this document to a 
rigorous scrutiny. The result more than confirmed my first 
unfavourable impression. 

'The main feature in the new law,' I reported to the Cab- 
inet on February 14, 'is the extraordinary increase in the strik- 
ing force of ships of all classes immediately available through- 
out the year. Whereas formerly we reckoned against 17 
battleships, 4 battle cruisers, and 12 small cruisers in the 
active battle fleet, demobilised to a great extent during the 
winter months, we must in future prepare against 25, 12 
and 18, which are not to be subject to anything like the same 
degree of temporary demobilisation. . . . Full permanent 
crews are to be provided for all, or nearly all, torpedo boat 
destroyers, now aggregating 115, and working up to an au- 
thorised total of 144, instead of for half the number as at 
present. There is to be an increase on the already large 
provision of £750,000 in this year's Estimates for submarines. 
The numbers are not stated, but from the fact that 121 ad- 
ditional executive officers are required for this service alone 
by 1920, we may infer that between 50 and 60 submarines 
are to be added. 1 We know nothing of the rate at which 
this construction is to be achieved. The increases in per- 
sonnel are also important. Under their existing law, the Ger- 
mans are working to a total of 86,500 in 191 7 by annual in- 
crements of 3,500. The new law adds 15,000 officers and men, 
and raises the total in 1920 to 101,500.' 

*The final published text of the law provided for 72. 


On March 9 I pointed out that the fundamental propo- 
sition of the negotiations from the Admiralty point of view 
had been that the existing Germany Navy Law should not be 
increased, but, if possible, reduced, whereas on the contrary 
a new law was certainly to be enacted providing for large 
and progressive increases not only in 191 2 but in the five fol- 
lowing years. Practically four-fifths of the German Navy 
were to be placed permanently upon a war footing. The 
German Government would be able to have available at all 
seasons of the year twenty-five, or perhaps twenty-nine, fully 
commissioned battleships, ' whereas at the present time the 
British Government have in full commission in Home Waters 
only twenty- two, even counting the Atlantic Fleet.' 

Thus on the fundamental proposition we encountered an 
unyielding attitude. Nevertheless we persevered and the 
discussion was transferred to the question of a mutual dec- 
laration against aggressive plans. Here Sir Edward Grey 
offered the following formula: ' England will make no un- 
provoked attack upon Germany, and pursue no aggressive 
policy towards her. Aggression upon Germany is not the 
subject, and forms no part of any treaty, understanding, or 
combination to which England is now a party, nor will she 
become a party to anything that has such an object/ The 
German Government considered this formula inadequate and 
suggested through their Ambassador the following additional 
clause: ' England will therefore observe at least a benevolent 
neutrality should war be forced upon Germany'; or, ' Eng- 
land will therefore, as a matter of course, remain neutral if 
a war is forced upon Germany.' 

This last condition would have carried us far beyond our 
original intention, and might well have been held to deprive 
us of the power to come to the aid of France in a war l forced,' 
or alleged to be ' forced,' upon Germany as the result of a 
quarrel between Austria and Russia. It would certainly have 
been regarded as terminating the Entente. Moreover, even 


if we had taken this step the new German Navy Law was 
not to be withdrawn. At the most it was to be modified. 
Thus a complete deadlock was reached at an early stage. 
Still, so important did we think it to create at least a friendly 
spirit, and so desirous were we of placating Germany and 
gratifying her aspirations, that we still persisted in an en- 
deavour to come to an arrangement beneficial to Germany in 
the colonial sphere. These negotiations were still progress- 
ing and had almost reached a conclusion definitely advanta- 
geous to Germany, when the war broke out. 

Lord Fisher did not like the idea of a naval programme. 
On February 13, 191 2, he wrote: — 

'I can't support you at all in any way whatever for any two 

years' or more programme. Some d d fool has got hold 

of you to have made you say that ! The great secret is to 


you mean to build (or perhaps not build her at all!). 
You see all your rival's plans fully developed, their vessels 
started beyond recall, and then in each individual answer to 
each such rival vessel you plunge with a design 50 per cent, 
better ! knowing that your rapid shipbuilding and command 
of money will enable you to have your vessel fit to fight as soon 
if not sooner than the rival vessel. Sometimes, as in one fa- 
mous year, you can drop an armoured ship and put the money 
into acceleration of those building because you have a new de- 
sign coming along, so don't be a d d ass and deliberately 

lay down a ship which you know is obsolete by some sudden 
vast step in old Watts' brain! " Sufficient for the year is the 
programme thereof" For God's sake get that written up some- 
where for you to look at when you get out of bed in the morn- 
ing! and do please tell me the name of the born fool who 
hoaxed you. Is it . . .? He has just got a gold medal in 
America for advocating smaller battleships I believe. . . . 
You know Archbishop Whately proved that Napoleon Bona- 
parte never existed ! . . . 

'We are asses now for not building a 16-inch gun as Sir E. 


Wilmot told you in the letter I sent you — but you can't help 
yourself any more than you can help deliberately laying down 
ships for the Line of Battle that go less than 30 knots — there 
are certain things my beloved Winston that even God Al- 
mighty can't help! (let alone you!). He for instance can't 
help two added to two being four ! . . . 

1 The most damnable thing in the world is a servile copyist I 
One of the four Nelsonic attributes is "Power of Initiative" ! 
and "Plunge" is the watchword of "Progress" ! but I sicken 
you with my reiteration, so good-bye.' 

I replied on February 19: — 

'I am delighted to see your handwriting again. I had be- 
gun to fear the well of truth and inspiration was running dry. 
Do not, however, shut your mind against a programme. The 
Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have been agreed on this 
policy ever since 1909, and I am quite certain that it can be 
developed so as to secure the greatest advantages without any 
sacrifice of elasticity. Such a programme as I have in mind 
will cover the whole period of the existing German Navy Law. 
It will deal only with the numbers of capital ships. It will 
be framed on certain clearly defined assumptions. It will be 
capable both of expansion and of diminution, of retardation 
and acceleration. It will not necessarily be embodied in an 
Act of Parliament. It will probably have to be revised after 
four years. It will recite certain definite facts of the existing 
shipbuilding situation, particularly in relation to Germany 
and Austria. It will be measured in relation to these facts 
so as to secure ample margins of superiority both in new con- 
struction and in establishment over those Powers. Unfore- 
seen contingencies will be met by additions, but it would al- 
ways be open within certain limits for England and Germany 
to agree upon proportionate reductions. The programme of 
minor construction will be entirely flexible and expressed only 
in terms of money. 

1 At present we suffer every disadvantage: a panic and a row 
every year, spasmodic building, hopeless finance, total lack 
of foresight in regard to the labour market, and no means of 
bargaining with our competitors. At present we have noth- 
ing to put against their threats. Nothing, in my opinion, 
would more surely dishearten Germany, than the certain proof 


that as the result of all her present and prospective efforts she 
will only be more hopelessly behindhand in 1920. She would 
know it was not bluff because if a Liberal Government could 
propose it, a Tory Government would a fortiori carry it farther. 
The vast financial reserves of which John Bull can dispose 
would come into view, and would weigh in the balance with a 
direct and real weight. It is the uncertainty as to whether 
we shall throw up the sponge or not, on which the German 
Navy has lived and fattened. The standard will be 60 per 
cent, preponderance in new construction against the present 
law, and two keels to one for all increases above it. Sixty 
per cent, preponderance in men, 20 to 12 in destroyers, at 
least 2 to 1 in armoured cruisers, protected cruisers and their 
equivalents, submarines and small fry generally. This is no 
new idea of mine. I have been working it out ever since I came 
to the Admiralty, and am absolutely convinced that it is the 
only way of securing economy, efficiency and moral effect. 
Whether the plan when made should be published is a political 
question. How Navy Estimates should be financed is for the 
Treasury and the House of Commons to decide. What the 
Admiralty are concerned with is the maintenance of proper 
margins of superiority, the power to look ahead, and the power 
within certain prescribed limits to manoeuvre. 

'Hopwood 1 and Sir Marcus Samuel are hard at it over oil.' 

This letter mollified the admiral. On the 25th February, 
191 2, he wrote: — 

'I hasten to reply to your letter of February 19th just ar- 
rived, because if your Programme (which has my enthusiastic 
admiration) is not embodied in an Act of Parliament then all 
my objections vanish! An Act of Parliament (The Naval 
Defence Act) made us build 20 cruisers that had only 48 hours 
coal supply. Can I ever forget that ! but Providence came along 
and made them useful as "Minelayers." However ocean 
" tramps" at £10 a ton would have been cheaper and more 
effective. Sir W. White built the "County Class" and forgot 
the guns, but Providence came along and has made them use- 
ful for commerce protectors with their 6-inch guns and big 

1 Sir Francis Hopwood, now Lord Southborough, the Additional 
Civil Lord. 


coal supply and good speed — however a few " Mauretanias " 
would be far more effective than a hundred "Countys" ! l 

'I can only pray that your Programme will be officially 
published — for it is sure to leak out ! It will add immensely to 
your reputation and influence and the moral effect will be 
prodigious ! 

' The Key Note is 2 keels to 1 for all increases above the pres- 
ent German Law! 2 to 1 in Armoured Cruisers is also vitall 

' You don't say a word of your visit to Jellicoe — but he 
does I He is "tnuch impressed with your grasp of the whole 
business" and as Jellicoe very seldom indeed gives praise I 
think you must have talked well ! as well as that night we stum- 
bled over the dockyard stores at Devonport returning from 
the Lion and the Monarchl (It's a pity we didn't have a 
shorthand writer !) 

'Don't make any mistake about big submarines being obliga- 
toryl . . . 

'Big risks bring big success! (It was Napoleon, wasn't 
it? "Risk nothing, get nothing I") Increased surface speed 
is above all a necessity, and broadside torpedo discharges and 
the bigger gun will come automatically with the above two 
essentials, and they (the Big Submarines) will be Destroyers 
with all the advantages of the present Destroyers and — as 
well — the power of submergence during daylight attacks. 
Battle tactics will be revolutionised and England's power will 
be multiplied not sevenfold but manifold ! and with a radius 
of action of 6,000 miles . . . but it wants an Isaiah to pro- 
claim this vision ! 

' For God's sake trample on and stamp out protected Cruisers 
and hurry up Aviation. . . .' 

For a specimen of Fisher's genius I commend these last 
few lines. Ten years of submarine development, spurred on 
by war on the greatest scale, were required to overtake in 
exact sequence the processes of that amazing vision in tech- 
nical affairs. The consequences to Great Britain were, how- 
ever, not so satisfactory as he forecasted. 

1 A doubtful gem ! They could have coaled only in a few ports 
with special appliances. 


Early in March, while the new German Navy Law was 
still unannounced, it was necessary to present our Estimates 
to the House of Commons. It would of course have been a 
breach of faith with the German Emperor to let any sug- 
gestion pass my lips that we already knew what the text of 
the Navy Law was. I was therefore obliged to make my first 
speech on naval matters on a purely hypothetical basis: 'This 
is what we are going to do if no further increases are made in 
the German Fleet. Should unhappily the rumours which we 
hear prove true, I shall have to present a Supplementary Es- 
timate to the House, etc.' 

In this speech I laid down clearly, with the assent of the 
Cabinet, the principles which should govern our naval con- 
struction in the next five years, and the standards of strength 
we should follow in capital ships. This standard was as fol- 
lows: Sixty per cent, in Dreadnoughts over Germany as long 
as she adhered to her present declared programme, and two 
keels to one for every additional ship laid down by her. Two 
complications of these clear principles were unavoidable. 
First, the two 'Lord Nelsons' although not Dreadnoughts 
were stronger in many ways, particularly in armour and sub- 
division, than the original Dreadnought herself. Although 
projected earlier, they had actually been completed later. 
Acting on the advice of the Naval Staff, I counted these 
throughout as 'Dreadnoughts.' On the other hand, any 
ships provided by the Dominions were to be additional to 
anything we might build ourselves. Otherwise the efforts of 
the Dominions would not have resulted in any accession to 
our naval strength, and consequently these efforts might have 
been discouraged. Proceeding on these lines I set out the 
six years of British construction at 4, 3, 4, 3, 4, 3, against a 
uniform German construction of 2. These numbers were well 
received by the House of Commons. We were not sure 
whether the Germans would adhere to an offer made to Mr. 
Haldane to drop one of the three extra ships embodied in 
their new Navy Law. This, however, proved ultimately to be 


the case and was at any rate a tangible result of the Haldane 
mission. In Tirpitz' words: 'He (Haldane) next came out 
with a proposal of a certain delay in the building of the three 
ships; could we not distribute them over twelve years? . . . 
He only wanted a token of our readiness to meet England, 
more for the sake of form. . . . Haldane himself proposed 
that we should retard the rate of our increase "in order to 
lubricate the negotiations,' ' or that we should at least cancel 
the first of the three ships. He outlined in writing of his own 
accord the same principle which I had previously fixed upon 
in my own mind as a possible concession. I therefore sacrificed 
the ship.' 

We therefore ' sacrificed ' two hypothetical ships, and our 
programmes, which would have been increased to 5, 4, 5, 4, 
5, 4, were ultimately declared at 4, 5, 4, 4, 4, 4. The splendid 
gift of the Malaya by the Federated Malay States raised the 
figure of the first year from 4 to 5. 

In announcing these decisions to Parliament later in the 
same month I made publicly and definitely those proposals 
for a Naval Holiday which were fruitless so far as Britain 
and Germany were concerned, but the principle of which has 
since been adopted by the English-speaking peoples of the 
world: — 

'Take, as an instance of this proposition I am putting for- 
ward for general consideration, the year 1913. In that year, 
as I apprehend, Germany will build three capital ships, and 
it will be necessary for us to build five in consequence. 

'Supposing we were both to take a holiday for that year 
and introduce a blank page into the book of misunderstand- 
ing; supposing that Germany were to build no ships that year, 
she would save herself between six and seven millions sterling. 
But that is not all. In ordinary circumstances we should not 
begin our ships until Germany had started hers. The three 
ships that she did not build would therefore automatically 
wipe out no fewer than five British potential super-Dread- 
noughts. That is more than I expect they could hope to do 
in a brilliant naval action. As to the indirect results within 


a single year, they simply cannot be measured, not only be- 
tween our two great brother nations, but to all the world. They 
are results immeasurable in their hope and brightness. This 
then is the position which we take up — that the Germans will 
be no gainers over us so far as naval power is concerned by any 
increases they may make, and no losers, on the basis I have 
laid down, by any chminution. , 

By the beginning of April it became certain that no general 
1/ arrangement for a naval holiday could be effected with 
Germany. The Emperor sent me a courteous message through 
Sir Ernest Cassel expressing his great regret, but adding that 
such arrangements would only be possible between allies. 
Herr Ballin wrote at this same time to Sir Ernest: — 

'I entirely share your opinion of C.'s (Churchill's) speech, 
and believe that it is simply the unusual feature of frankness 
and honesty which flustered the whole world, and especially 
the leading parties here, and has caused a torrent of indig- 
nation in the Press. It is not easy to become all at once 
accustomed to such a complete change from the mystery 
mongering hitherto prevalent; up to now, it was thought that 
language was given to British and German Navy Ministers to 
conceal their thoughts. Suddenly, some one makes a new de- 
parture, and everybody asks disconcertedly, "What does this 
man want?" 

' A few friendly lines addressed to you about the report I 
sent would have a happy effect. [A complaint which we were 
reputed to have made about an alleged clandestine visit of 
certain German ships to the Shetland Islands.] ... If he 
wishes it, C. can make use of this opportunity in a few quite 
unofficial lines addressed to you, to brush away the shadows 
which were created in high quarters here by the " luxury fleet" 
(luxus flotte) and the absence of warmth in his last speech. 
This will be a great help in the political negotiations. It 
would be too pitiful if, owing to misunderstanding and senti- 
ment, the great work of arrangement were to be hindered . . . 
etc., etc.' 

In compliance I therefore wrote the following letter for the 
Emperor's eye: — 


Mr. Churchill to Sir Ernest C asset, April 14, 191 2. 

I am deeply impressed by the Emperor's great considera- 
tion. I only mentioned the incident to Ballin as an example 
to show the kind of anxieties and the strain to which the naval 
situation gives rise. I am very glad to know that it was free 
from all sinister significance: and I take this opportunity of 
saying again that we have been throughout equally innocent 
of any offensive design. I suppose it is difficult for either 
country to realise how formidable it appears to the eyes of 
the other. Certainly it must be almost impossible for Ger- 
many, with her splendid armies and warlike population capa- 
ble of holding their native soil against all comers, and situated 
inland with road and railway communications on every side, 
to appreciate the sentiments with which an island State like 
Britain views the steady and remorseless development of a 
rival naval power of the very highest efficiency. The more 
we admire the wonderful work that has been done in the swift 
creation of German naval strength, the stronger, the deeper 
and the more preoccupying those sentiments become. Pa- 
tience, however, and good temper accomplish much; and as 
the years pass many difficulties and dangers seem to settle 
themselves peacefully. Meanwhile there is an anxious defile 
to be traversed, and what will help more perhaps than any- 
thing else to make the journey safe for us all, is the sincere 
desire for goodwill and confidence of which Ballin's letter and 
its enclosure are a powerful testimony. 

The growth of the German Navy produced its inevitable 
consequences. The British Fleet for safety's sake had to be 
concentrated in Home Waters. The first concentration had 
been made by Lord Fisher in 1904. This had effected the 
reduction of very large numbers of small old vessels which 
were, scattered about the world ' showing the flag' and the 
formation in their place of stronger, better, more homogene- 
ous squadrons at home. This measure was also a great and 
wise economy of money. A few months later the British 
battleships were recalled from China. The more distant 


oceans had thus been abandoned. But now a further mea- 
sure of concentration was required. We saw ourselves com- 
pelled to withdraw the battleships from the Mediterranean. 
Only by this measure could the trained men be obtained to 
form the Third Battle Squadron in full commission in Home 
Waters. It was decided by the Cabinet that we must still 
maintain a powerful force in the Mediterranean, and ulti- 
mately, four battle cruisers and an armoured cruiser squa- 
dron were accordingly based on Malta. It was further decided 
that a Dreadnought battle squadron should also be developed 
in the Mediterranean by the year 191 6 equal in strength to 
that of the growing Austrian battle fleet. These decisions 
were taken with the deliberate object of regaining our com- 
plete independence. But the withdrawal — even if only for a 
few years — of the battleships from the Mediterranean was a 
noteworthy event. It made us appear to be dependent upon 
the French Fleet in those waters. The French also at the 
same time redisposed their forces. Under the growing pres- 
sure of German armaments Britain transferred her whole 
Battle Fleet to the North Sea, and France moved all her heavy 
ships into the Mediterranean. And the sense of mutual re- 
liance grew swiftly between both navies. 

It is astonishing that Admiral Von Tirpitz should never 
have comprehended what the consequences of his policy must 
be. Even after the war he could write: — 

1 In order to estimate the strength of the trump card which 
our fleet put in the hands of an energetic diplomacy at this 
time, one must remember that in consequence of the concen- 
tration of the English forces which we had caused in the 
North Sea, the English control of the Mediterranean and 
Far-Eastern waters had practically ceased.' 

The only ' trump card' which Germany secured by this pol- 
icy was the driving of Britain and France closer and closer 
together. From the moment that the Fleets of France and 


Britain were disposed in this new way our common naval in- 
terests became very important. And the moral claims which 
France could make upon Great Britain if attacked by Ger- 
many, whatever we had stipulated to the contrary, were 
enormously extended. Indeed my anxiety was aroused to 
try to prevent this necessary recall of our ships from tying us 
up too tightly with France and depriving us of that liberty 
of choice on which our power to stop a war might well 

When in August, 191 2, the Cabinet decided that naval con- 
versations should take place between the French and British 
Admiralties, similar to those which had been held since 1906 
between the General Staffs, I set forth this point as clearly as 
possible in a minute which I addressed to the Prime Minister 
and the Foreign Secretary, and we did our utmost to safe- 
guard ourselves. 

Sir Edward Grey, Au Z ust 2 3> i9*a. 

Prime Minister. 

The point I am anxious to safeguard is our freedom of 
choice if the occasion arises, and consequent power to influ- 
ence French policy beforehand. That freedom will be sen- 
sibly impaired if the French can say that they have denuded 
their Atlantic seaboard, and concentrated in the Mediter- 
ranean on the faith of naval arrangements made with us. 
This will not be true. If we did not exist, the French could 
not make better dispositions than at present. They are not 
strong enough to face Germany alone, still less to maintain 
themselves in two theatres. They therefore rightly concen- 
trate their Navy in the Mediterranean where it can be safe 
and superior and can assure their African communications. 
Neither is it true that we are relying on France to maintain 
our position in the Mediterranean. ... If France did not 
exist, we should make no other disposition of our forces. 

Circumstances might arise which in my judgment would 
make it desirable and right for us to come to the aid of France 
with all our force by land and sea. But we ask nothing in 
return. If we were attacked by Germany, we should not 


make it a charge of bad faith against the French that they 
left us to fight it out alone; and nothing in naval and mili- 
tary arrangements ought to have the effect of exposing us 
to such a charge if, when the time comes, we decide to stand 

This is my view, and I am sure I am in line with you on 
the principle. I am not at all particular how it is to be given 
effect to, and I make no point about what document it is set 
forth in. But [consider] how tremendous would be the weap- 
on which France would possess to compel our intervention, 
if she could say, 'On the advice of and by arrangement with 
your naval authorities we have left our Northern coasts de- 
fenceless. We cannot possibly come back in time.' Indeed 
[I added somewhat inconsequently], it would probably be de- 
cisive whatever is written down now. Every one must feel 
who knows the facts that we have the obligations of an al- 
liance without its advantages, and above all without its pre- 
cise definitions. „ r „ ~ 

W. b. C 

The difficulty proved a real one. The technical naval dis- 
cussions could only be conducted on the basis that the 
French Fleet should be concentrated in the Mediterranean, 
and that in case of a war in which both countries took part, 
it would fall to the British fleet to defend the Northern and 
Western coasts of France. The French, as I had foreseen, 
naturally raised the point that if Great Britain did not take 
part in the war, their Northern and Western coasts would be 
completely exposed. We however, while recognising the diffi- 
culty, steadfastly declined to allow the naval arrangements 
to bind us in any political sense. It was eventually agreed that 
if there was a menace of war, the two Governments should 
consult together and concert beforehand what common action, 
if any, they should take. The French were obliged to ac- 
cept this position and to affirm definitely that the naval 
conversations did not involve any obligation of common 
action. This was the best we could do for ourselves and for 


I commend these discussions and the document I have 
printed above to German eyes. The German Naval Minister 
exults in a policy which has had the effect of uniting in com- 
mon defence against Germany, in spite of themselves, two 
powerful Fleets till then rivals. The British Ministers so far 
from welcoming this consolidation of forces in the opposite 
balance to Germany, are anxious to preserve their freedom 
of action and reluctant to become entangled with continental 
Powers. Germany was, in fact, forging a coalition against 
herself, and Britain was seeking to save her from the conse- 
quences of her unwisdom. It is not often that one can show 
so plainly the workings of events. But all was lost on Ad- 
miral von Tirpitz. 

This sincere, wrongheaded, purblind old Prussian firmly 
believed that the growth of his beloved navy was inducing 
in British minds an increasing fear of war, whereas it simply 
produced naval rejoinders and diplomatic reactions which 
strengthened the forces and closed the ranks of the Entente. 
It is almost pathetic to read the foolish sentences in which 
on page after page of his Memoirs he describes how much 
Anglo-German relations were improved in 1912, 1913 and 
1 9 14 through the realisation by the British people of Ger- 
many's great and growing naval power. He notices that the 
violent agitations against German naval expansion which 
swept England in 1904 and again in 1908 were succeeded 
by a comparatively calm period in which both Powers were 
building peacefully and politely against each other. This he 
thinks was a proof that his treatment was succeeding, and 
that all friction was passing away — another dose or two and 
it would be gone altogether. The violent agitations in Eng- 
land were, however, the symptom of doubt and differences of 
opinion in our national life about whether the German men- 
ace was real or not, and whether the right measures were 
being taken to meet it. As doubts and differences on these 
points were gradually replaced by general agreement among 


the leading men in all parties to meet a grave danger, the 
agitations subsided. The excitement in the Press and in 
Parliament, the warning speeches and counter-speeches were 
not intended for foreign consumption. England was not 
trying to make an impression upon Germany. She was try- 
ing to make up her own mind: and in proportion as this mind 
arrived at solid and final conclusions, silence was again re- 
stored. But it was not the silence of sleep. With every 
rivet that von Tirpitz drove into his ships of war, he united 
British opinion throughout wide circles of the most powerful 
people in every walk of life and in every part of the Empire. 
The hammers that clanged at Kiel and Wilhelmshaven were 
forging the coalition of nations by which Germany was to be 
resisted and finally overthrown. Every threatening gesture 
that she made, every attempt to shock or shake the loosely 
knit structure of the Entente made it close and fit together 
more tightly. Thus Tirpitz: — 

'British statesmen naturally did not stress the fact in their 
conversations with Germans that it was mainly the presence 
of our nearly completed fleet in the North Sea that had pro- 
duced their respectful tone, and had lessened the probability 
of a British attack. Of course they only spoke of their peaceful 
inclinations and not so much of the facts which strengthened 
these inclinations.' And again (p. 192) : ' Seventeen years of 
fleet-building had, it is true, improved the prospects of an 
acceptable peace with England.' 

Is it possible to be further from the truth than this ? There 
never had been any probability or possibility of a British 
attack on Germany. Why should we attack Germany for 
building ships when we could ourselves build more ships 
quicker and cheaper ? Why incur the guilt, cost and hazard 
of war, when a complete remedy was obvious and easy ? But 
the ' respectful tone' was that of men who felt how serious 
the position had become, and were anxious to avoid any re- 


sponsibility for causing a crisis. It was not restraint imposed 
by fear of the 'nearly completed fleet in the North Sea,' but 
the calm resulting from resolve to be prepared. 

The organisation of a Fleet differs throughout from that 
of an Army. Armies only keep a small proportion of their 
soldiers in regular service. These form the framework of 
the battalions, train the recruits and keep guard in times of 
peace. When the order is given to mobilise, all the men who 
have been already trained but are living at home in civil life 
are called up as they are wanted: and then and not till then 
the Army is ready to fight. 

Navies on the other hand were in the main always ready. 
The British Navy had all its best ships fully and permanently 
manned with whole-time men (called active service rat- 
ings). Measured by quality nearly the whole of its power 
was therefore constantly available. Measured even by num- 
bers nearly three-quarters of the ships could go into action 
without calling out the Reserves. Only the oldest and most 
obsolete ships were manned in time of war by the Naval 
Reserve, i.e. men who had left the Navy and had returned 
to civil life. These obsolete vessels were the only part of the 
Fleet which had to be ' mobilised' like the armies of Europe. 

Thus mobilisation, which is the foundation of all great 
armies, plays only a very small part in fleets. Every ship 
that really counted was always ready to steam and fight as 
soon as an order reached her. 

The organisation of the British Home Fleets when I came 
to the Admiralty seemed to a mind accustomed to military 
symmetry to leave much to be desired. The terminology 
was misleading and confused. The word ' Division ' was 
used in three different senses, sometimes tactical and some- 
times administrative. The battle units were uneven in num- 
bers. The degree of readiness and efficiency of the different 


squadrons was not apparent from the classes in which they 
were grouped. In consultation with Sir Francis Bridgeman, 
Prince Louis and Admiral Troubridge, the first Chief of the 
new War Staff, I designed a new and symmetrical organisa- 
tion for the Fleets. 

All the ships available for Home Defence were divided 
into the First, Second and Third Fleets, comprising eight 
battle squadrons of eight battleships each, together with 
their attendant cruiser squadrons, flotillas and auxiliaries. 
The First Fleet comprised a Fleet Flagship and four battle 
squadrons of ships 'in full commission' manned entirely 
with active service ratings, and therefore always ready. To 
form this Fleet it was necessary to base the former l Atlantic 
Fleet' on Home Ports instead of on Gibraltar, and to base 
the battleships hitherto in the Mediterranean on Gibraltar 
instead of Malta. By this concentration an additional battle 
squadron of strong ships {King Edwards) was always ready 
in Home waters. The Second Fleet consisted of two battle 
squadrons, also fully manned with active service ratings but 
having about 40 per cent, of these learning and requalifying 
in the gunnery, torpedo and other schools. This Fleet was 
termed, 'in active commission' because it could fight at any 
moment; but to realise its highest efficiency, it required to 
touch at its Home Ports, and march on board its balance 
crews from the schools. In all these six battle squadrons, 
containing with their cruiser squadrons every modern and 
middle-aged ship in the Navy, there was not to be found a 
single reservist. No mobilisation was therefore necessary to 
bring the whole of this force into action. The Third Fleet 
also consisted of two battle squadrons and five cruiser squad- 
rons of our oldest ships. These were only manned by care 
and maintenance parties and required the Reserves to be 
called out before they could put to sea. In order to acceler- 
ate the mobilisation of the leading battle squadrons and cer- 
tain cruisers of the Third Fleet a special class of the Reserve 


was now formed called the l Immediate Reserve/ who re- 
ceived higher pay and periodical training, and were liable to 
be called up in advance of general mobilisation. 

Germany was adding a third squadron to the High Sea 
Fleet, thus increasing her always ready strength from 17 to 
25. We in reply, by the measures set out above and various 
others too technical for description here, raised our always 
ready Fleet from 3$ battleships to 49, and other forces in like 
proportion. On mobilisation the German figures would rise 
to 38; and the British at first to 57, and ultimately, as the 
new organisation was completed, to 65. 

The reader will not be able to understand the issues in- 
volved in the completion and mobilisation of the Fleets on 
the eve of the war unless this organisation is mastered. 

We made a great assembly of the Navy this spring of 191 2 
at Portland. The flags of a dozen admirals, the broad pen- 
nants of as many commodores and the pennants of a hun- 
dred and fifty ships were flying together. The King came in 
the Royal Yacht, the Admiralty flag at the fore, the Standard 
at the main, and the Jack at the mizzen, and bided among 
his sailors for four days. One day there is a long cruise out 
into mist, dense, utterly baffling — the whole Fleet steaming 
together all invisible, keeping station by weird siren scream- 
ings and hootings. It seemed incredible that no harm would 
befall. And then suddenly the fog lifted and the distant 
targets could be distinguished and the whole long line of 
battleships, coming one after another into view, burst into 
tremendous flares of flame and hurled their shells with deaf- 
ening detonations while the water rose in tall fountains. 
The Fleet returns — three battle squadrons abreast, cruisers 
and flotillas disposed ahead and astern. The speed is raised 
to twenty knots. Streaks of white foam appear at the bows 
of every vessel. The land draws near. The broad bay al- 


ready embraces this swiftly moving gigantic armada. The 
ships in their formation already fill the bay. The foreign 
officers I have with me on the Enchantress bridge stare 
anxiously. We still steam fast. Five minutes more and the 
van of the Fleet will be aground. Four minutes, three min- 
utes. There! At last. The signal! A string of bright 
flags falls from the Neptune's halyards. Every anchor falls 
together; their cables roar through the hawser holes; every 
propeller whirls astern. In a hundred and fifty yards every 
ship is stationary. Look along the lines, miles this way and 
miles that, they might have been drawn with a ruler. The 
foreign observers gasped. 

These were great days. From dawn to midnight, day after 
day, one's whole mind was absorbed by the fascination and 
novelty of the problems which came crowding forward. And 
all the time there was a sense of power to act, to form, to or- 
ganise: all the ablest officers in the Navy standing ready, 
loyal and eager, with argument, guidance, information; every 
one feeling a sense that a great danger had passed very near 
us; that there was a breathing space before it would return; 
that we must be even better prepared next time. Saturdays, 
Sundays and any other spare day I spent always with the 
Fleets at Portsmouth or at Portland or Devonport, or with 
the Flotillas at Harwich. Officers of every rank came on 
board to lunch or dine and discussion proceeded without 
ceasing on every aspect of naval war and administration. 

The Admiralty yacht Enchantress was now to become 
largely my office, almost my home; and my work my sole 
occupation and amusement. In all I spent eight months 
afloat in the three years before the war. I visited every 
dockyard, shipyard and naval establishment in the British 
Isles and in the Mediterranean and every important ship. 
I examined for myself every point of strategic importance 
and every piece of Admiralty property. I got to know what 
everything looked like and where everything was, and how 


one thing fitted into another. In the end I could put my 
hand on anything that was wanted and knew thoroughly 
the current state of our naval affairs. 

I recall vividly my first voyage from Portsmouth to Port- 
land, where the Fleet lay. A grey afternoon was drawing to 
a close. As I saw the Fleet for the first time drawing out of 
the haze a friend reminded me of l that far-off line of storm- 
beaten ships on which the eyes of the grand Army had never 
looked/ but which had in their day ' stood between Napo- 
leon and the dominion of the world.' In Portland harbour the 
yacht lay surrounded by the great ships; the whole harbour 
was alive with the goings and comings of launches and small 
craft of every kind, and as night fell ten thousand lights from 
sea and shore sprang into being and every masthead twinkled as 
the ships and squadrons conversed with one another. Who 
could fail to work for such a service ? Who could fail when 
the very darkness seemed loaded with the menace of ap- 
proaching war ? 

For consider these ships, so vast in themselves, yet so small, 
so easily lost to sight on the surface of the waters. Sufficient 
at the moment, we trusted, for their task, but yet only a score 
or so. They were all we had. On them, as we conceived, 
floated the might, majesty, dominion and power of the Brit- 
ish Empire. All our long history built up century after cen- 
tury, all our great affairs in every part of the globe, all the 
means of livelihood and safety of our faithful, industrious, 
active population depended upon them. Open the sea-cocks 
and let them sink beneath the surface, as another Fleet was 
one day to do in another British harbour far to the North, 
and in a few minutes — half an hour at the most — the whole 
outlook of the world would be changed. The British Empire 
would dissolve like a dream; each isolated community strug- 
gling forward by itself; the central power of union broken; 
mighty provinces, whole Empires in themselves, drifting hope- 
lessly out of control and falling a prey to others; and Europe 



after one sudden convulsion passing into the iron grip and 
rule of the Teuton and of all that the Teutonic system meant. 
There wculd only be left far off across the Atlantic unarmed, 
unready, and as yet uninstructed America to maintain, single- 
handed, law and freedom among men. 

Guard them well, admirals and captains, hardy tars and 
tall marines; guard them well and guide them true. 



'For a scrutiny so minute as to bring an object under an untrue 
angle of vision, is a poorer guide to a man's judgment, than the most 
rapid and sweeping glance which sees things in their true propor- 
tions.' Kinglake. 

The Big Punch — The 15-inch Gun — An Anxious Decision — The De- 
sign of a Battleship — Gun-power and Speed — The Argument for 
the Fast Division— The Fifth Turret— Liquid Fuel— The Oil 
Problem — Financial Entanglements — The Royal Commission on 
Oil Supplies — The Anglo-Persian Convention — A Golden Reward 
— The Fast Division at Jutland — Swifter Destroyers — Cruiser 
Design — Correspondence with Lord Fisher — The'Light Armoured 
Cruisers — The Arethusa. 

TNTIL I got to the Admiralty I had never properly ap- 
^ predated the service which Mr. McKenna and Lord 
Fisher had rendered to the Fleet in 1909 by their big leap for- 
ward from the 12-inch to the 13' 5-inch gun. To illustrate 
this I set out the weight of the shell fired by the principal 
guns in the British and German navies: — 

The 1 -inch gun fires a 1 -pound shot. 

The 2-inch " 6-pound shot. 

The 3-inch 12- or 15-pound shot. 

The 4-inch 28 to 32-pound shot. 

The 5-inch " 50-pound shot. 

The 6-inch 1 " 100-pound shot. 

The 7 5-inch " 200-pound shot. 

The 9- 2-inch " 380-pound shot. 

The 10-inch " 500-pound shot. 

The British 12-inch gun fires a 850-pound shot. 

The German 12-inch gun fires approximately a 1,000-pound 

shot, but this is asking a lot of the gun. 
The 13 -5-inch gun fired a 1,250-pound shot; and its later 

marks fired a 1,400-pound shot. 

1 This is the biggest gun which can be completely worked by hand, 
the shot being lifted by a single man. 



The increase of i^ m ch in the calibre of the gun was 
enough to raise the British shell from 850 pounds to 1,400 
pounds. No fewer than twelve ships were actually building 
on the slips for the Royal Navy armed with these splendid 
weapons, quite unsurpassed at that time in the world, and 
firing a projectile nearly half as heavy again as the biggest 
fired by the German Fleet. 

I immediately sought to go one size better. I mentioned 
this to Lord Fisher at Reigate, and he hurled himself into its 
advocacy with tremendous passion. ' Nothing less than the 
15-inch gun could be looked at for all the battleships and 
battle-cruisers of the new programme. To achieve the sup- 
ply of this gun was the equivalent of a great victory at sea; 
to shrink from the endeavour was treason to the Empire. 
What was it that enabled Jack Johnson to knock out his op- 
ponents ? It was the big punch. And where were those miser- 
able men with bevies of futile pop-guns crowding up their 
ships ? ' No one who has not experienced it has any idea of 
the passion and eloquence of this old lion when thoroughly 
roused on a technical question. I resolved to make a great 
effort to secure the prize, but the difficulties and the risks 
were very great, and looking back upon it one feels that they 
were only justified by success. Enlarging the gun meant 
enlarging the ships, and enlarging the ships meant increasing 
the cost. Moreover, the redesign must cause no delay and 
the guns must be ready as soon as the turrets were ready. 
No such thing as a modern 15-inch gun existed. None had 
ever been made. The advance to the i3*5-inch had in itself 
been a great stride. Its power was greater; its accuracy was 
greater; its life was much longer. Could the British designers 
repeat this triumph on a still larger scale and in a still more 
intense form ? The Ordnance Board were set to work and 
they rapidly produced a design. Armstrongs were consulted 
in deadly secrecy, and they undertook to execute it. I had 
anxious conferences with these experts, with whose science I 


was of course wholly unacquainted, to see what sort of men 
they were and how they really felt about it. They were all 
for it. One did not need to be an expert in ballistics to dis- 
cern that. The Director of Naval Ordnance Rear-Admiral 
Moore was ready to stake his professional existence upon it. 
But after all there could not be absolute certainty. We knew 
the 13 '5-inch well. All sorts of new stresses might develop in 
the 15-inch model. If only we could make a trial gun and 
test it thoroughly before giving the orders for the whole of 
the guns of all the five ships, there would be no risk; but 
then we should lose an entire year, and five great vessels 
would go into the line of battle carrying an inferior weapon 
to that which we had it in our power to give them. Several 
there were of the responsible authorities consulted who 
thought it would be more prudent to lose the year. For, 
after all, if the guns had failed, the ships would have been 
fearfully marred. I hardly remember ever to have had more 
anxiety about any administrative decision than this. 

I went back to Lord Fisher. He was steadfast and even 
violent. So I hardened my heart and took the plunge. The 
whole outfit of guns was ordered forthwith. We arranged 
that one gun should be hurried on four months in front of 
the others by exceptional efforts so as to be able to test it 
for range and accuracy and to get out the range tables and 
other complex devices which depended upon actual firing 
results. From this moment we were irrevocably committed 
to the whole armament, and every detail in these vessels, 
extending to thousands of parts, was redesigned to fit them. 
Fancy if they failed. What a disaster. What an exposure. 
No excuse would be accepted. It would all be brought home 
to me — 'rash, inexperienced/ ' before he had been there a 
month/ l altering all the plans of his predecessors' and 
producing 'this ghastly fiasco/ 'the mutilation of all the 
ships of the year.' What could I have said ? Moreover, al- 
though the decision, once taken, was irrevocable, a long period 


of suspense — fourteen or fifteen months at least — was un- 
avoidable. However, I dissembled my misgivings. I wrote 
to the First Sea Lord that ' Risks have to be run in peace 
as well as in war, and courage in design now may win a battle 
later on.' 

But everything turned out all right. British gunnery 
science proved exact and true, and British workmanship as 
sound as a bell and punctual to the day. The first gun was 
known in the Elswick shops as 'the hush and push gun/ 
and was invariably described in all official documents as ' the 
14-inch experimental.' It proved a brilliant success. It 
hurled a 1,920-pound projectile 35,000 yards; it achieved 
remarkable accuracy at all ranges without shortening its ex- 
istence by straining itself in any way. No doubt I was 
unduly anxious; but when I saw the gun fired for the first 
time a year later and knew that all was well, I felt as if I 
had been delivered from a great peril. 

In one of those nightmare novels that used to appear from 
time to time before the war, I read in 1913 of a great battle 
in which, to the amazement of the defeated British Fleet, the 
German new vessels opened fire with a terrible, unheard-of 
15-inch gun. There was a real satisfaction in feeling that 
anyhow this boot was on the other leg. 

The gun dominated the ship, and was the decisive cause of 
all the changes we then made in design. The following was 
in those days the recipe in very unexpert language for mak- 
ing a battleship: — 

You take the largest possible number of the best possible 
guns that can be fired in combination from one vessel as a 
single battery. You group them conveniently by pairs in 
turrets. You put the turrets so that there is the widest pos- 
sible arc of fire for every gun and the least possible blast inter- 
ference. This regulates the position of the turrets and the 
spacing between them. You draw a line around the arrange- 
ment of turrets thus arrived at, which gives you the deck of 


the ship. You then build a hull to carry this deck or great 
gun platform. It must be very big and very long. Next 
you see what room you have got inside this hull for engines 
to drive it, and from this and from the length you get the 
speed. Last of all you decide on the armour. 

All these calculations and considerations act and react 
upon one another at every stage, and the manner in which 
the Royal Corps of Constructors can juggle with these factors, 
and the facility with which the great chiefs and masters of 
battleship design like Sir Philip Watts and Sir Eustace Ten- 
nyson-D'Eyncourt and their faithful confederate Sir Henry 
Oram, the Chief Engineer, were able to speak on these matters 
were marvellous beyond belief. In a few hours, or at most 
in a few days, one could be told the effect of an alteration in 
any one set of conditions upon every other set of conditions. 
On this vast process of juggling and higgling we now em- 

From the beginning there appeared a ship carrying ten 
15-inch guns, and therefore at least 600 feet long with room 
inside her for engines which would drive her 21 knots 
and capacity to carry armour which on the armoured belt, 
the turrets and the conning tower would reach the thickness 
unprecedented in the British Service of 13 inches. For less 
armour you could have more speed: for less speed you could 
have more armour, and so on within very considerable limits. 
But now a new idea began to dawn. Eight 15-inch guns would 
fire a simultaneous broadside of approximately 16,000 lb. 
Ten of the latest 13* 5-inch would only fire 14,000 lb. There- 
fore, we could get for eight 15-inch guns a punch sub- 
stantially greater than that of ten i3'5-inch. Nor did the 
superiority end there. With the increased size of the shell 
came a far greater increase in the capacity of the bursting 
charge. It was not quite a geometric progression, because 
other considerations intervened; but it was in that order of 
ideas. There was no doubt about the punch. On the other 


hand, look at the speed. Twenty-one knots was all very well 
in its way, but suppose we could get a much greater speed. 
Suppose we could cram into the hull a horse-power sufficient 
to drive these terrific vessels, already possessing guns and 
armour superior to that of the heaviest battleship, at speeds 
hitherto only obtained by the lightly armoured 12-inch gun 
battle-cruisers, should we not have introduced a new element 
into naval war ? 

And here we leave the region of material. I have built 
the process up stage by stage as it was argued out, but of 
course all the processes proceeded in simultaneous relation, 
and the result was to show a great possibility. Something 
like the ship described above could be made if it were wanted. 
Was it wanted ? Was it the right thing to make ? Was its 
tactical value sufficient to justify the increase in cost and all 
the changes in design ? We must turn for the answer to the 
tactical sphere. 

Here I felt able to see a little more clearly. As cannot be 
too often repeated, war is all one; and the same principles 
of thought which are true in any form are true mutatis mu- 
tandis in every other form. Obviously in creating an Army 
or an Air Force or a squadron of battleships you must first of 
all have regard to their highest tactical employment, namely, 
decisive battle. Let us, therefore, first of all visualise the 
battle. Let us try to imagine what its conditions will be; 
what we shall have to meet and what would help us most 
to win. The first naval idea of our supreme battle at this 
time was that it would be fought about something: some- 
body would want to be going somewhere and somebody else 
would try to stop him. One of the Fleets would be proceed- 
ing in a certain direction and the other Fleet would come along 
and try to prevent it. However they might approach, the 
battle would soon resolve itself into two lines of ships steam- 
ing along parallel and bringing all their broadsides to bear 
upon each other. Of course if one Fleet is much stronger than 


the other, has heavier guns and shoots better, the opposite 
line begins to get the worst of it. Ships begin to burn and 
blow up and fall out of the line, and every one that falls out 
increases the burden of fire upon the remainder. The Fleet 
which has more ships in it also has a tail which overlaps the 
enemy, and a good many ships in this tail can concentrate 
their fire upon the rear ships of the enemy, so that these un- 
lucky vessels have not only to fight the ships opposite to them, 
but have to bear the fire of a number of others firing obliquely 
at them from behind. But smashing up the tail of an enemy's 
Fleet is a poor way of preventing him from achieving his ob- 
jective, i.e. going where he wants to go. It is not comparable 
to smashing up his head. Injuries at the head of the line 
tend to throw the whole line into confusion, whereas injuries 
at the tail only result in the ships dropping astern without 
causing other complications. Therefore the Admiralissimo 
will always try to draw a little ahead if he possibly can and 
bring his van nearer and nearer to the enemy and gradually, 
if he can, force that enemy to turn off, so that he can then 
curl round him. This well-known manoeuvre is called ' Cross- 
ing the T/ and Admiral Togo had used it in the battle of the 
Sea of Japan. 

If the speeds of the Fleets are equal, how can this be done ? 
The heads of both lines will be abreast and the fire will only 
be given and returned ship for ship. 

But suppose you have a division of ships in your Fleet which 
go much faster than any of your other ships or of your enemy's 
ships. These ships will be certainly able to draw ahead and 
curl round the head of the enemy's line. More than that, 
as they draw ahead they will repeat in a much more effective 
fashion the advantage of an overlapping tail, because the 
ships at the head of the enemy's line will have to bear the 
fire of the overlapping ships as well as the fire of those which 
are lying opposite to them, and therefore two or three ships 
might be firing on every one of the leading ships of the enemy, 


thus smashing to pieces the head of the enemy's line and 
throwing his whole formation into confusion. 

Here then in simple outline is the famous argument for 
the Fast Division. A squadron of ships possessing a definite 
superiority of speed could be so disposed in the approaching 
formation of your own Fleet as to enable you, whichever way 
the enemy might deploy, to double the fire after certain inter- 
val upon the head of his line, and also to envelop it and cross 
it and so force him into a circular movement and bring him 
to bay once and for all without hope of escape. 

Hitherto in all our battle plans this role had been assigned 
to the battle-cruisers. Their speed would certainly enable 
them to get there. But we must imagine that they would 
also be met by the enemy's battle-cruisers, whereupon, as 
they say in the reports of the House of Commons ' debate aris- 
ing,' they might easily fight a separate action of their own 
without relation to the supreme conflict. Further, the bat- 
tle-cruisers, our beautiful 'Cats,' as their squadron was 
irreverently called, 1 had thin skins compared to the enemy's 
strongest battleships, which presumably would head his line. 
It is a rough game to pit battle-cruisers against battleships 
with only seven or nine inches of armour against twelve or 
thirteen, and probably with a weaker gun-power as well. 2 

Suppose, however, we could make a division of ships fast 

1 Lion, Tiger, Queen Mary, Princess Royal. 

a Contrary to common opinion and, as many will think, to the 
proved lessons of the war, I do not believe in the wisdom of the Battle- 
Cruiser type. If it is worth while to spend far more than the price 
of your best battleship upon a fast heavily-gunned vessel, it is better 
at the same time to give it the heaviest armour as well. You then 
have a ship which may indeed cost half as much again as a battleship 
but which at any rate can do everything. To put the value of a first- 
class battleship into a vessel which cannot stand the pounding of a 
heavy action is false policy. It is far better to spend the extra money 
and have what you really want. The battle-cruiser in other words 
should be superseded by the fast battleship, i.e. fast strongest ship, 
in spite of her cost. — W.S.C. 


enough to seize the advantageous position and yet as strong 
in gun-power and armour as any battleship afloat. Should 
we not have scored almost with certainty an inestimable and 
a decisive advantage ? The First Sea Lord, Sir Francis 
Bridgeman, fresh from the command of the Home Fleet, and 
most of his principal officers, certainly thought so. The Fast 
Division was the dream of their battle plans. But could we 
get such ships? Could they be designed and constructed? 
And here we came back again to Sir Philip Watts and Sir 
Henry Oram and the Ordnance Board and the Royal Corps 
of Naval Constructors. 

At this stage the War College were asked to work out on 
the tactical board the number of knots superiority in speed 
required in a Fast Division in order to ensure this Division 
being able to manoeuvre around the German Fleet as it 
would be in the years 19 14 and 191 5. 

The answer was that if the Fast Division could steam in 
company 25 knots or better, they could do all that was neces- 
sary. We therefore wanted 4 or 5 knots additional speed. 
How were we to get it ? With every knot the amount of 
horse-power required is progressively greater. Our new ship 
would steam 21 knots, but to steam 25 to 26 she wanted 
50,000 horse-power. Fifty thousand horse-power meant more 
boilers, and where could they be put ? Why, obviously they 
could be put where the fifth turret would go, and having re- 
gard to the increased punch of the 15-inch gun we could spare 
the fifth turret. 

But even this would not suffice. We could not get the 
power required to drive these ships at 25 knots except by 
the use of oil fuel. 

The advantages conferred by liquid fuel were inestimable. 
First, speed. In equal ships oil gave a large excess of speed 
over coal. It enabled that speed to be attained with far 
greater rapidity. It gave forty per cent, greater radius of 
action for the same weight of coal. It enabled a fleet to re- 


fuel at sea with great facility. An oil-burning fleet can, if 
need be and in calm weather, keep its station at sea, nourish- 
ing itself from tankers without having to send a quarter of 
its strength continually into harbour to coal, wasting fuel on 
the homeward and outward journey. The ordeal of coaling 
ship exhausted the whole ship's company. In wartime it 
robbed them of their brief period of rest; it subjected every- 
one to extreme discomfort. With oil, a few pipes were con- 
nected with the shore or with a tanker and the ship sucked 
in its fuel with hardly a man having to lift a finger. Less 
than half the number of stokers was needed to tend and 
clean the oil furnaces. Oil could be stowed in spare places 
in a ship from which it would be impossible to bring coal. 
As a coal ship used up her coal, increasingly large numbers 
of men had to be taken, if necessary from the guns, to shovel 
the coal from remote and inconvenient bunkers to bunkers 
nearer to the furnaces or to the furnaces themselves, thus 
weakening the fighting efficiency of the ship perhaps at the 
most critical moment in the battle. For instance, nearly a 
hundred men were continually occupied in the Lion shovel- 
ling coal from one steel chamber to another without ever 
seeing the light either of day or of the furnace fires. The use 
of oil made it possible in every type of vessel to have more 
gun-power and more speed for less size or less cost. It alone 
made it possible to realise the high speeds in certain types 
which were vital to their tactical purpose. All these advan- 
tages were obtained simply by burning oil instead of coal un- 
der the boilers. Should it at any time become possible to 
abolish boilers altogether and explode the oil in the cylinders of 
internal combustion engines, every advantage would be multi- 
plied tenfold. 

On my arrival at the Admiralty we had already built or 
building 56 destroyers solely dependent on oil and 74 sub- 
marines which could only be driven by oil; and a proportion 
of oil was used to spray the coal furnaces of nearly all ships. 


We were not, however, dependent upon oil to such an extent 
as to make its supply a serious naval problem. To build any 
large additional number of oil-burning ships meant basing our 
naval supremacy upon oil. But oil was not found in appre- 
ciable quantities in our islands. If we required it we must 
carry it by sea in peace or war from distant countries. We 
had, on the other hand, the finest supply of the best steam coal 
in the world, safe in our mines under our own hand. 

To change the foundation of the Navy from British coal to 
foreign oil was a formidable decision in itself. If it were taken 
it must raise a whole series of intricate problems all requiring 
heavy initial expense. First there must be accumulated in 
Great Britain an enormous oil reserve large enough to enable 
us to fight for many months if necessary without bringing in a 
single cargo of oil. To contain this reserve enormous installa- 
tions of tanks must be erected near the various naval ports. 
Would they not be very vulnerable ? Could they be protected ? 
Could they be concealed or disguised? The word 'camou- 
flage' was not then known. Fleets of tankers had to be built 
to convey the oil from the distant oilfields across the oceans 
to the British Isles, and others of a different pattern to take 
it from our naval harbours to the fleets at sea. 

Owing to the systems of finance by which we had bound 
ourselves, we were not allowed to borrow even for capital or 
'once for all' expenditure. Every penny must be won from 
Parliament year by year, and constituted a definite ad- 
dition to the inevitably rising and already fiercely chal- 
lenged Naval Estimates. And beyond these difficulties 
loomed up the more intangible problems of markets and 
monopolies. The oil supplies of the world were in the hands 
of vast oil trusts under foreign control. To commit the 
Navy irrevocably to oil was indeed Ho take arms against 
a sea of troubles.' Wave after wave, dark with storm, 
crested with foam, surged towards the harbour in which we 
still sheltered. Should we drive out into the teeth of the gale, 


or should we bide contented where we were ? Yet beyond the 
breakers was a great hope. If we overcame the difficulties 
and surmounted the risks, we should be able to raise the whole 
power and efficiency of the Navy to a definitely higher level; 
better . ships, better crews, higher economies, more intense 
forms of war power — in a word, mastery itself was the prize 
of the venture. A year gained over a rival might make the 
difference. Forward, then ! 

The three programmes of 1912, 1913 and 19 14 comprised 
the greatest additions in power and cost ever made to the 
Royal Navy. With the lamentable exception of the battle- 
ships of 19 13 — and these were afterwards corrected — they did 
not contain a coal-burning ship. Submarines, destroyers, 
light cruisers, fast battleships — all were based irrevocably on 
oil. The fateful plunge was taken when it was decided to 
create the Fast Division. Then, for the first time, the su- 
preme ships of the Navy, on which our life depended, were 
fed by oil and could only be fed by oil. The decision to drive 
the smaller craft by oil followed naturally upon this. The 
camel once swallowed, the gnats went down easily enough. 

A decision like this involved our national safety as much as 
a battle at sea. It was as anxious and as harassing as any 
hazard in war. It was war in a certain sense raging under a 
surface of unbroken peace. Compare it with the decision to 
attempt to force the Dardanelles with the old surplus vessels 
of a fleet which had already proved its supremacy. The oil 
decision was vital; the Dardanelles decision was subsidiary. 
The first touched our existence; the second our superfluities. 
Having succeeded in the first, it did not seem difficult when 
the time came to attempt the second. I did not understand 
that in war the power of a civilian Minister to carry through 
a plan or policy is greatly diminished. He cannot draw his 
strength year by year from Parliament. He cannot be sure 
of being allowed to finish what he has begun. The loyalties 
of peace are replaced by the jealous passions of war. The 


Parliamentary safeguards are in abeyance. Explanation and 
debate may be impossible or may be denied. I learnt this 
later on. 

I shall show presently the difficulties into which these de- 
cisions to create a fast division of battleships and to rely 
upon oil led me into during the years 19 13 and 19 14. Nor 
can I deny that colleagues who could not foresee the extra 
expense which they involved had grounds of complaint. 
Battleships were at that time assumed to cost two and a 
quarter millions each. The Queen Elizabeth class of fast 
battleships cost over three millions each. The expenditure of 
upwards of ten millions was required to create the oil reserve, 
with its tanks and its tankers, though a proportion of this 
would have been needed in any case. On more than one occa- 
sion I feared I should succumb. I had, however, the unfail- 
ing support of the Prime Minister. The Chancellor of the 
Exchequer whose duty it was to be my most severe critic was 
also my most friendly colleague. And so it all went through. 
Fortune rewarded the continuous and steadfast facing of 
these difficulties by the Board of Admiralty and brought us a 
prize from fairyland far beyond our brightest hopes. 

An unbroken series of consequences conducted us to the 
Anglo-Persian Oil Convention. The first step was to set up 
a Royal Commission on Oil Supply. Lord Fisher was in- 
vited and induced to preside over this by the following 
letter: — 

Mr. Churchill to Lord Fisher. 

June n, 191 2. 

We are too good friends (I hope) and the matters with 
which we are concerned are too serious (I'm sure) for any- 
thing but plain language. 

This liquid fuel problem has got to be solved, and the 
natural, inherent, unavoidable difficulties are such that they 
require the drive and enthusiasm of a big man. I want you 
for this, viz. to crack the nut. No one else can do it so well. 


Perhaps no one else can do it at all. I will put you in a posi- 
tion where you can crack the nut, if indeed it is crackable. 
But this means that you will have to give your life and 
strength, and I don't know what I have to give in exchange 
or in return. You have got to find the oil: to show how it 
can be stored cheaply : how it can be purchased regularly and 
cheaply in peace; and with absolute certainty in war. Then 
by all means develop its application in the best possible way 
to existing and prospective ships. But on the other hand, 
your Royal Commission will be advisory and not executive. 
It will assemble facts and state conclusions. It cannot touch 
policy or action. That would not be fair to those on whom I 
must now rely. Nor would you wish it. Its report must be 
secret from the public, and its work separate from the Ad- 
miralty. I cannot have Moore's position 1 eclipsed by a kind 
of Committee of Public Safety on Designs. The field of 
practical policy must be reserved for the immediately re- 
sponsible officers. Research however authoritative lies out- 
side. All this I know you will concur in. 

Then as to personnel. I do not care a d n whom you 

choose to assist you, so long as (1) the representative char- 
acter of the Committee is maintained, and (2) the old con- 
troversies are not needlessly revived. Let us then go into 
names specifically. 

Further, 'Step by step' is a valuable precept. When 
you have solved the riddle, you will find a very hushed at- 
tentive audience. But the riddle will not be solved unless 
you are willing — for the glory of God — to expend yourself 
upon its toils. 

I recognise it is little enough I can offer you. But your 
gifts, your force, your hopes, belong to the Navy, with or 
without return; and as your most sincere admirer, and as the 
head of the Naval Service, I claim them now, knowing well 
you will not grudge them. You need a plough to draw. 
Your propellers are racing in air. 

Simultaneously with the setting up of this Commission we 
pursued our own Admiralty search for oil. On the advice of 
Sir Francis Hopwood and Sir Frederick Black 2 I sent Ad- 

1 The Third Sea Lord. 

2 Director of Admiralty Contracts. 


miral Slade with an expert Committee to the Persian Gulf 
to examine the oil fields on the spot. These gentlemen were 
also the Admiralty representatives on the Royal Commis- 
sion. To them the principal credit for the achievement is 
due. At the later financial stage the Governor of the Bank 
of England, afterwards Lord Cunliffe, and the director of 
the Anglo-Persian and Royal Burmah Oil Companies were 
most serviceable. All through 191 2 and 19 13 our efforts 
were unceasing. 

Thus each link forged the next. From the original desire 
to enlarge the gun we were led on step by step to the Fast 
Division, and in order to get the Fast Division we were forced 
to rely for vital units of the Fleet upon oil fuel. This led to 
the general adoption of oil fuel and to all the provisions which 
were needed to build up a great oil reserve. This led to enor- 
mous expense and to tremendous opposition on the Naval 
Estimates. Yet it was absolutely impossible to turn back. 
We could only fight our way forward, and finally we found 
our way to the Anglo-Persian Oil agreement and contract 
which for an initial investment of two millions of public 
money (subsequently increased to five millions) has not only 
secured to the Navy of a very substantial proportion of its 
oil supply, but has led to the acquisition by the Government 
of a controlling share in oil properties and interests which 
are at present valued at scores of millions sterling and also 
to very considerable economies, which are still continuing, 
in the purchase price of Admiralty oil. 

All forecasts in this speculative market are subject to re- 
vision. The figures set out below are recent and authorita- 
tive. 1 

*An approximate estimate of the return obtained by His Majesty's 
Government on their original investment of £2,200,000, in the Anglo- 
Persian Oil Co., Ltd.: 

(1) The original Government investment of £2,200,000 in 
£1 Ordinary Shares has become one of 5 million 


On this basis it may be said that the aggregate profits, 
realised and potential, of this investment may be estimated 
at a sum not merely sufficient to pay for all the programme 
of ships, great and small of that year and for the whole pre- 
war oil fuel installation; but are such that we may not un- 
reasonably expect that one day we shall be entitled also to 
claim that the mighty fleets laid down in 1912, 1913 and 19 14, 
the greatest ever built by any power in an equal period, were 
added to the British Navy without costing a single penny to 
the taxpayer. 

Such is the story of the creation of a Fast Division of five 
famous battleships, the Queen Elizabeth, Warspite, Barham, 
Valiant and Malaya, all oil-driven, each capable of steaming 
a minimum of 25 knots, mounting eight 15-inch guns and 
protected by 13 inches of armour. It is permissible to look 
ahead and see what happened to these ships in the Battle 
of Jutland. Let us take the accounts of the enemy. 

Says Tirpitz (vol. II, p. 284): 'In the further course of the 
fight/ i.e. after the destruction of the Indefatigable and 

shares, and the appreciation in value of these at cur- 
rent prices represent approximately some . . £16,000,000 

(2) The Government has received in dividends, interest, 

Income Tax, Excess Profits, Duty and Corporation 

Tax, over ....... 6,500,000 

(3) The supply contract has enabled the Government De- 

partments to save on the purchase price of oil as 

compared with current prices, about . . . 7,500,000 

(4) It may also be claimed that the prices of oil supplied 

by other companies have been brought down by the 
competition of the Anglo-Persian Company, though 
to what extent must be a matter of opinion: and 
further, that the saving on oil prices under the sup- 
ply contract may be expected to continue through- 
out the currency of the contract. It would not be 
unfair to estimate the effect of the last two factors 
at an additional ...... 10,000,000 

Total ....... £40,000,000 


Queen Mary, 'the English were strongly reinforced by five 1 
of their newest ships of the Queen Elizabeth class, only com- 
pleted during the war; these vessels, driven exclusively by 
oil-fuel, possessed such a high speed that they were able to 
take part in the cruiser engagement — they attached them- 
selves to the English cruisers and joined in the battle at long 
The First Gunnery Officer of the Derfflinger is more explicit: 

Meanwhile we saw that the enemy were being reinforced. 
Behind the battle cruiser line approached four big ships. 
We soon identified these as of the Queen Elizabeth class. 
There had been much talk in our fleet of these ships. They 
were ships of the line with the colossal armament of eight 
15-inch guns, 28,000 tons displacement and a speed of twenty- 
five knots. Their speed, therefore, was scarcely inferior to 
ours (twenty-six knots), but they fired a shell more than 
twice as heavy as ours. They engaged at portentous range 
. . . (p. 164) . 2 

As we were altering course to N.N.W. we caught sight of 
the head of our Third Squadron, the proud ships of the Konig 
class. Everyone now breathed more freely. While we had 
been engaged by the English Fifth Battle Squadron with its 
15-inch guns in addition to the Battle Cruiser Squadron we 
had felt rather uncomfortable, (p. 167). 

After the gradual disappearance of the four battle cruisers 
we were still faced with the four powerful ships of the Fifth 
Battle Squadron, Malaya, Valiant, Barhani, and Warspite. 

These ships cannot have developed very high speed in this 
phase of the battle, for they soon came within range of our 
Third Squadron, and were engaged by the ships at the head 
of the line, particularly the flagship, the Konig. In this way 
the four English battleships at one time and another came 
under the fire of at least nine German ships, five battle cruisers 
and from four to five battleships. According to my gunnery 
log, we were firing after 7.16 p.m. at the second battleship 
from the right, the one immediately astern of the leader. At 
these great ranges I fired armour-piercing shell. 

Actually four. 

2 Kiel and Jutland, by Commander George von Hase. 


The second phase passed without any important events as 
far as we were concerned. In a sense this part of the action, 
fought against a numerically inferior but more powerfully 
armed enemy, who kept us under fire at ranges at which we 
were helpless, was highly depressing, nerve-racking and exas- 
perating. Our only means of defence was to leave the line 
for a short time when we saw that the enemy had our range. 
As this manoeuvre was imperceptible to the enemy, we ex- 
tricated ourselves at regular intervals from the hail of fire. 
(P- 173)- 

We may now turn to the smaller vessels. 

There was no difficulty whatever in settling the design of the 
destroyers. The Admiralty had vacillated about destroyers 
in previous years. In 1908 they built large fast 33-knot 
Tribals burning oil, and then, worried by the oil problem and 
shocked at the expense, reverted for two years to 27-knot coal- 
burning flotillas (Acastas and Acherons). I was too late to 
stop the last bevy of these inferior vessels, but I gave direc- 
tions to design the new flotilla to realise 35 knots speed with- 
out giving up anything in gun-power, torpedoes or seaworthi- 
ness. I proposed to the Board that if money ran short we 
should take sixteen of these rather than twenty of the others. 
Building slow destroyers ! One imght as well breed slow race- 

The cruisers were much more difficult. The duties of a 
British cruiser are very varied: now scouting for the Battle 
Fleet; now convoying merchantmen; now fighting an action 
with another cruiser squadron; now showing the flag in distant 
or tropical oceans. In an effort to produce a type which would 
combine all these requirements, the purity of design had been 
lost and a number of compromise ships, whose types melted 
into one another, were afloat or building. They ranged from 
the strong, heavily gunned and well armoured vessels like the 
Minotaur through lighter but still armoured variants of the 
' County ' class cruisers down to unarmoured but large ships 
like the Dartmouths (the 'Town' class), and the little vessels 


of 3,3So tons like the Blonde. Altogether there were nine 
distinct classes. It was time to classify and clarify thought 
and simplify nomenclature on this subject. The large 
armoured cruisers were already superseded by the battle- 
cruiser. They still remained a very powerful force, numbering 
no less than thirty-five vessels. We would call them ' Cruis- 
ers.' All the rest should be called 'Light Cruisers.' For 
the future we would build only battle-cruisers (or fast battle- 
ships) and light cruisers. The future evolution of the battle 
cruiser was well defined and depended on the numbers and 
character of any that might be laid down by Germany. Our 
lead in battle cruisers (9 to 4) and the creation of the fast 
division of battleships made it possible to delay decision on 
this type; but the light cruiser was urgent and even vital. 
We required a very large number of small fast vessels to pro- 
tect the Battle Fleet from torpedo attack, to screen it and 
within certain limits to scout for it. After hearing many 
arguments, I proposed to the Board that we should concen- 
trate on this type, to exclude all consideration of the require- 
ments of the distant seas, and to build vessels for attendance 
on the Battle Fleets in home waters and for that duty alone. 
Now arose the question of design. Should the new light 
cruiser be the smallest of the cruisers or the biggest of the 
destroyers ? We had already in existence a few unarmoured 
light cruisers carrying 4-inch guns called the Blondes. We 
had also an experimental destroyer of enormous size, nearly 
2,000 tons and about 36 knots speed, called the Swift. In be- 
tween these were eight hybrid vessels called ( Scouts' repre- 
senting weakness and confusion of thought: they had neither 
speed to run nor guns to fight; they steamed only 24 knots and 
mounted only a litter of 12 -pounders; they carried no armour, 
but they ate up men and money. Whatever happened we 
must avoid a feeble compromise like that. I therefore called 
for designs of an improved Swift and an improved Blonde. 
The main object of both these types was to rupture a torpedo 


attack on the Battle Fleet, scout for it, and otherwise protect 
it. But destroyers were now being freely armed with 4-inch 
guns firing a 32-lb. shell capable of inflicting very serious 
injury on an unarmoured vessel. We must therefore have 
some protection, if not to keep out the shell at any rate to 
keep the bulk of the explosion outside the vessel. We must 
also have high speed and guns sufficient to punish even the 
biggest destroyers cruelly. 

The constructors and engineers toiled and schemed, and in 
a few weeks Sir Philip Watts and Sir Henry Oram, par nobile 
fratrum, produced two joint alternative designs, the super- 
Blonde and the super-Swift. Both these vessels showed far 
higher qualities than anything previously achieved for their 
size and cost; but both were dependent upon oil only. I re- 
mitted these designs to a conference of Cruiser Admirals. I 
could feel opinion turning to the super- Blonde. I wrote to 
Fisher on the 12 th January, 191 2: — 

January 12, 1912. 

In sustained rumination about super-Swifts, two types 

(1) The super-Swift. 37 knots. Six 4-inch — 600 tons of 
oil. £250,000. I want her to be superior at every point to 
all T.B.D.'s. Speed she has, and stronger armament, and 
superior stability. But it is alleged by Briggs 1 (Advocatus 
Diaboli — a very necessary functionary) that she will be as 
flimsy as the destroyers, and a bigger target. So I have tried 
to find her a thicker skin — not much, but enough to flash off 
a 12-pounder or even a 4-inch shell. I can get from Admiral 
Watts 2-inch tensile steel round all vitals with great strength- 
ening of the general structure of the vessel for 160 tons, £2,200, 
and three-quarters of a knot speed. The speed would come 
back as the oil was used up. I think it is a great advance. 
What do you feel ? 

(2) Do you know the Active? She is a Blonde. The 
super- Active, or Frenzy, Mania, and Delirium type, now in 
question, will be 3,500 tons, 30 knots, 40,000 h.p., ten 4-inch 

^ear-Admiral Briggs was at this time Controller or Third Sea 


guns and 290 tons of armour distributed in 2-inch plates round 
vitals. She is therefore much smaller than the Dartmouths, 
£65,000 cheaper (£285,000 as against £350,000), about the 
same price or size as the Actives, but 4*7 knots faster (? in 
smooth water) and with 2-inch protection as against nothing. 
Now if all this bears test, how about chucking the two 
Dartmouths and the Blonde in the programme, and substituting 
four Frenzies, all of a kind, the gain being one additional ship, 
four 30-knot cruiserlets or cruiserkins, and the cost being an 
extra £170,000. What is your view? 

Fisher wrote on the 16th January: — 

c Of course there can be no moment's doubt that you ought 
to chuck the two Dartmouths and the Blonde and take four 
Frenzies in lieu. I hope you won't hestitate ! ' 

He did not approve of them, however. 

'You are forced/ he said, 'by the general consensus of 
opinion to have these useless warships and this therefore is 
your wisest choice. I say to you deliberately that aviation 
has entirely dispensed with the necessity for this type. What 
you do want is the super-Swift — all oil — and don't fiddle about 
armour; it really is so very silly ! There is only ONE defence 
and that is SPEED ! for all small vessels (except those who go 
under water). 

1 The super-Swift is mainly wanted for the submarine. The 
submarine has no horizon. The Swift tells her where the 
enemy is and then flees for her life with 40 knots speed ! 

'The super-Lion, the super-Swift and the super-Submarine 
— all else is wasted money ! 

1 The luxuries of the present are the necessities of the future. 
Our grandfathers never had a bath-room. . . . You have got 
to plunge for three years ahead ! And THE ONE thing is to 
keep Foreign Admiralties running after you ! It's Hell for 

1 The Germans are going to have a motor battleship before 
us and a cruiser that will make the circuit of the world without 
having to replenish her fuel ! 

''What an Alabama I 


"The most damnable person for you to have any dealings 
with is a Naval Expert ! Sea fighting is pure common sense. 
The first of all its necessities is SPEED, so as to be able to 

When you like 
Where you like 
and How you like. 

Therefore the super-Lion, the super-Swift and the super- 
Submarine are the only three types for fighting {speed being 
the characte istic of each of these types) . Aviation has 
wiped out the intermediate types. No armour for anything 
but the super-Lion and there restricted ! Cost £1,995,000; 
speed over 30 knots; all oil; 10 "improved" guns; and you'll 
make the Germans "squirm" I 

And again: 

' You had better adopt 2 keels to 1! You have it now. It 
will be safe; it will be popular; it will head off the approaching 
German naval increase. Above all remember Keble in The 
Christian Year. 

1 "The dusky hues of glorious War !" 

' There is always the risk of a (bad Admiral) before a sec- 
ond A. K. Wilson comes along to supersede him ! How that 
picture of old 'ard 'eart (as the sailors call him) rises before 
me now ! . . . Three big fleets that had never seen each other 
came from three different quarters to meet him off Cape St. 
Vincent — in sight of Trafalgar. When each was many hun- 
dreds of miles away from him he"ordered them by " wireless" 
exactly what to do, and that huge phalanx met together at his 
prescribed second of time without a signal or a sound and 
steamed a solid mass at 14 knots and dropped their anchors 
with one splash ! Are we going to look at his like again ? 

' So you had better have 2 keels to 1 ! 

'"The dusky hues of glorious War." What a hymn for 
The Christian Year by a Saint like Keble ! ' 

On the 14th January he wrote: — 

'I yesterday had an illuminating letter from Jellicoe. 
... He has all the Nelsonic attributes. ... He writes to 


me of new designs. His one, one, one cry is SPEED ! Do lay 
that to heart! Do remember the receipt for jugged hare in 
Mrs. Glasse's Cookery Book! "First catch your hare!" . . . 
Also he advocates the "improved" gun and the far bigger ship 
and (it) will cost less. 

'"IPs your money we want," as those Tariff Reform asses 
say ! . . . Take my advice — 2 keels to 1 / ' 

The Cruiser Admirals however plumped for the Super- 
Blonde. Meanwhile, between the hammer and the anvil, Sir 
Philip Watts had scraped together another inch of armour, 
making 3 inches in all, and Sir Henry Oram guaranteed 30 or 
even 31 knots of speed. 

Now for the guns. The proverbial three alternatives pre- 
sented themselves. We could have ten 4-inch (32-lb. shell) 
or five 6-inch (100-lb. shell), or we could compromise on a 
blend of the two. The Cruiser Admirals' Committee finally 
agreed on a compromise. Six 4-inch guns were to be mounted 
on the superstructure forward and two 6-inch on the main 
deck aft. It was denied that this arrangement was a com- 
promise. It must be judged in relation to what the ship 
would have to do. When advancing to attack destroyers she 
could fire a large number of 32-lb. shots, each sufficient to 
wound them grievously; when retreating from a larger cruiser 
she could strike back with her two 6-inch guns. I personally 
insisted upon the two 6-inch. The Navy would never recog- 
nise these vessels as cruisers if they did not carry metal of 
that weight. The ultimate evolution of this type in subse- 
quent years was to a uniform armament of five 6-inch. 

We must now admit that this was right, but they were big 
guns to put in so small a ship, and many doubted whether the 
platform would be sufficiently stable. For the value then of 
the two Dartmouths and one Blonde which had been previously 
proposed, plus something scraped from other incidentals of 
the programme, plus a hope that the Chancellor of the Ex- 
chequer would not be too severe, we were able to lay down no 


less than eight of these new vessels. I presented them to 
Parliament in the following words: — 

'They are described as Light Armoured Cruisers, and they 
will in fact be the smallest, cheapest and fastest vessels pro- 
tected by vertical armour ever projected for the British Navy. 
They are designed for attendance on the Battle Fleet. They 
are designed to be its eyes and ears by night and day; to watch 
over it in movement and at rest. They will be strong enough 
and fast enough to overhaul and cut down any torpedo boat 
destroyer afloat, and generally they will be available for the 
purposes of observation and reconnaissance.' 

Judged by its popularity in peace and war this type may 
claim success. In the three programmes of 1912, 1913 and 
1914, 8, 8, and 6 of them were built respectively, and after 
the war began no fewer than 18 more were built. The first 
eight fired their torpedoes from the deck as if they were 
destroyers. I put the greatest pressure on the constructors 
to give them underwater torpedo tubes, but they could not 
manage it in 191 2. In 1913 this had been achieved, and 
was continued in all other vessels of this class. Such were 
the advantages of speed in Light Cruisers that not one of 
these vessels, nor the C Class, nor D Class which were their 
successors, although frequently engaged with the enemy, was 
ever sunk by gunfire. The first of these vessels from which 
the class was named was the Arethusa, and under the broad 
pennant of Commodore Tyrwhitt she established on an un- 
challengeable foundation the glories claimed of old for that 

Come, all you gallant seamen bold, 

Whose hearts are cast in honour's mould; 

I will to you a tale unfold 

Of the saucy Arethusa. 

Such were the characteristics of the new vessels with which 
we proceeded to equip the Royal Navy in the programme of 



'The greatest impediment to action is not discussion, but the want 
of that knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action.' 


Our First Line of Defence — The Great Change of Front — Close 
Blockade and an Oversea Base — The New War-Plans: Distant 
Blockade — Manoeuvre Experiments, 191 2 and 1913 — Prowling 
Squadrons — The Perils of Surprise — The Limits of Precaution — 
A Bolt from the Blue — Cordons — The Limits of German Morality 
— The Invasion Problem and the Expeditionary Force — The In- 
vasion Committee — First Lord's Notes — The South and East 
Fronts Compared — Raid or Invasion — Impossibility of Close 
Blockade— The Patrol Flotillas— The Coastal Watch— A Bolt 
from the Grey — Possible German Objectives for Raids — As- 
sumptions and Conclusions — Difficulties of Preparation — The 
Initial Dangers the Greatest — Letter to a Friend — The Other 

THE traditional war policy of the Admiralty grew up dur- 
ing the prolonged wars and antagonisms with France. 
It consisted in establishing immediately upon the outbreak 
of war a close blockade of the enemy's ports and naval bases 
by means of flotillas of strong small craft supported by cruis- 
ers with superior battle fleets in reserve. The experience of 
200 years had led all naval strategists to agree on this funda- 
mental principle, 'Our first line of defence is the enemy's 

When the torpedo was invented, the French tried to frus- 
trate this well-known British policy by building large numbers 
of torpedo-boats, and the Admiralty, after some years, re- 
torted by building torpedo-boat destroyers. These destroyers 
fulfilled two conditions: first, they were large enough to keep 
the seas in most weathers and to operate across the Channel 



for sufficient periods; secondly, their guns were heavy enough 
to destroy or dominate the French torpedo-boats. Thus, in 
spite of the advent of the torpedo, we preserved our power to 
maintain stronger flotillas in close proximity to the enemy's 
naval bases. Meanwhile, all along the South Coast of Eng- 
land a series of fortified torpedo-proof harbours in the neigh- 
bourhood of our great naval establishments afforded safe, 
close, and convenient stations for our battle fleets and other 
supporting vessels when not actually at sea. 

When early in the present century our potential enemy for 
the first time became not France, but Germany, our naval 
strategic front shifted from the South to the East Coast and 
from the Channel to the North Sea. But although the enemy, 
the front, and the theatre had changed, the sound principle of 
British naval strategy still held good. Our first line of defence 
was considered to be the enemy's ports. The Admiralty policy 
was still a close blockade of those ports by means of stronger 
flotillas properly supported by cruisers and ultimately by the 
battle fleets. 

It was not to be expected that our arrangements on this new 
front could rapidly reach the same degree of perfection as the 
conflicts of so many generations had evolved in the Channel; 
and so far as our naval bases were concerned, we were still in 
the process of transition when the great war began. More 
serious, however, was the effect of the change on the utility 
of our destroyers. Instead of operating at distances of from 
20 or 60 miles across the Channel with their supporting ships 
close at hand in safe harbours, they were now called upon 
to operate in the Heligoland Bight, across 240 miles of sea, 
and with no suitable bases for their supporting battle fleet 
nearer than the Thames or the Forth. Nevertheless, the Ad- 
miralty continued to adhere to their traditional strategic 
principle, and their war plans up till 191 1 contemplated the 
close blockade of the enemy's ports immediately upon the 
declaration of war. Our destroyers were constructed with ever 


increasing sea-keeping qualities and with a great superiority 
of gun power. The Germans, on the other hand, adhered to 
the French conception of the torpedo boat as a means of at- 
tack upon our large ships. While we relied in our destroyer 
construction principally on gun power and sea-keeping quali- 
ties, they relied upon the torpedo and high speed in fair weather 
opportunities. But the much greater distances over which 
our destroyers had now to operate across the North Sea im- 
mensely reduced their effectiveness. Whereas across the 
Channel they could work in two reliefs, they required three 
across the North Sea. Therefore only one-third instead of 
one-half of our fighting flotillas could be available at any given 
moment. Against this third the enemy could at any moment 
bring his whole force. In order to carry out our old strategic 
policy from our Home bases we should have required flotillas 
at least three and probably four times as numerous as those of 
Germany. This superiority we had not got and were not likely 
to get. 

Therefore from shortly before 1905 when the French agree- 
ment was signed, down to the Agadir crisis in 191 1, the Ad- 
miralty made plans to capture one or other of the German 
islands. On this it was intended to establish an oversea base 
at which from the beginning of the war our blockade flotillas 
could be replenished and could rest, and which as war pro- 
gressed would have developed into an advanced citadel of 
our sea power. In this way, therefore, the Admiralty would 
still have carried out their traditional war policy of beating 
the enemy's flotillas and light craft into his ports and main- 
taining a constant close blockade. 

These considerations were not lost upon the Germans. 
They greatly increased the fortifications of Heligoland, and 
they proceeded to fortify one after another such of the Frisian 
Islands as were in any way suitable for our purposes. At the 
same time a new and potent factor appeared upon the scene — 
the submarine. The submarine not only rendered the cap- 


ture and maintenance of an oversea base or bases far more 
difficult and, as some authorities have steadfastly held, im- 
possible, but it threatened with destruction our cruisers and 
battleships without whose constant support our flotillas would 
easily have been destroyed by the enemy's cruisers. 

This was the situation in October, 191 1, when immediately 
after the Agadir crisis I became First Lord and proceeded to 
form a new Board of Admiralty. Seeing that we had not for 
the time being the numerical force of destroyers able to mas- 
ter the destroyers of the potential enemy in his home waters, 
nor the power to support our flotillas with heavy ships, and 
having regard also to the difficulty and hazard in all the cir- 
cumstances of storming and capturing one of his now fortified 
islands, we proceeded forthwith to revise altogether the War 
Plans and substitute, with the full concurrence of our princi- 
pal commanders afloat, the policy of distant blockade set up 
in the Admiralty War Orders of 191 2. 

The policy of distant blockade was not adopted from 
choice, but from necessity. It implied no repudiation on the 
part of the Admiralty of their fundamental principle of aggres- 
sive naval strategy, but only a temporary abandonment of it 
in the face of unsolved practical difficulties; and it was in- 
tended that every effort should be made, both before and after 
a declaration of war, to overcome those difficulties. It was 
rightly foreseen that by closing the exits from the North Sea 
into the Atlantic Ocean, German commerce would be almost 
completely cut off from the world. It was expected that the 
economic and financial pressure resulting from such a blockade 
would fatally injure the German power to carry on a war. It 
was hoped that this pressure would compel the German fleet 
to come out and fight, not in his own defended waters, but at 
a great numerical disadvantage in the open sea. It was be- 
lieved that we could continue meanwhile to enjoy the full 
command of the seas without danger to our sea communica- 
tions or to the movement of our armies, and that the British 


Isles could be kept safe from invasion. There was at that 
time no reason to suppose that these conditions would not 
continue indefinitely with undiminished advantage to our- 
selves and increasing pressure upon the enemy. So far as all 
surface vessels are concerned, and certainly for the first three 
years of the war, these expectations were confirmed by ex- 

Under these orders the Fleet was disposed strategically so as 
to block the exits from the North Sea by placing the Grand 
Fleet at Scapa Flow and drawing a cordon of destroyers across 
the Straits of Dover supported by the older battleships and 
protected by certain minefields. These conclusions stood the 
test of the war. They were never departed from in any 
important respect by any of the Boards of Admiralty which 
held office. By this means the British Navy seized and kept 
the effective control of all the oceans of the world. 

They did not, however, secure the command of the Baltic, 
nor the absolute control of the North Sea. We could no 
longer hope to prevent the enemy from sallying out of his 
harbours whenever he chose. What use would he make of 
this liberty, at the outset or during the progress of a war ? 
By what means could we restrict him most effectually ? 

We sought to probe these questions in the naval manoeuvres 
of 1912 and 1913. 

In 191 2 the newly-formed Admiralty War Staff prepared, 
as an experiment, a plan for an immense cordon of cruisers and 
destroyers, supported by the Battle Fleet, from the Coast of 
Norway to a point on the East Coast of England. To a mili- 
tary eye this system appeared unsound, and indeed outside 
the Admiralty it was generally condemned by naval opinion. 
I quoted Napoleon's scathing comment in 1808: 'Est-ce qu'on 
a adopte le systeme des cordons ? Est-ce qu'on veut empecher 
le contrebande de passer au l'ennemi ? Qui est-ce qui peut 
conseiller au Roi de faire des cordons ? Apres dix annees de 
guerre doit-on revenir a ces betises-la ? ' The cordon system 


was however tried, and was completely exposed and broken 
down. We then fell back upon a system of what I may call 
1 prowling squadrons and occasional drives/ that is to say, 
we recognised that we could not maintain any continuous 
control of the North Sea. The best we could do was to 
sweep it in strength at irregular intervals and for the rest 
await the action of the enemy. This clearly involved a con- 
siderable risk of raiding forces which might amount to ten 
or twenty thousand men slipping through and disembarking 
on our coast. I therefore called for careful individual study 
to be made of all the different points where such forces could 
be landed, and what would be the best plans for the Germans 
to make in each case. At the manoeuvres of 19 13 Sir John 
Jellicoe adopted several of these plans for raiding the British 
coast and put them into execution. He achieved so consider- 
able a measure of success that I thought it necessary to stop 
the manoeuvres on the third day lest we might teach the Ger- 
mans as well as ourselves. 

But before there could be any question of employing the 
war policy on which the Admiralty had decided, there was 
a preliminary period to be traversed of the most momentous 
and critical character. This period raised another set of 
problems before which the inconveniences of raids, or even 
an attempt at serious invasion, paled in gravity. Of all the 
dangers that menaced the British Empire, none was com- 
parable to a surprise of the Fleet. If the Fleet or any vital 
part of it were caught unawares or unready and our naval 
preponderance destroyed, we had lost the war, and there was 
no limit to the evils which might have been inflicted upon 
us except the mercy of an all-powerful conqueror. We have 
seen in recent years how little completely victorious nations 
can be trusted to restrain their passions against a prostrate 
foe. Great Britain, deprived of its naval defence, could be 
speedily starved into utter submission to the will of the con- 
queror. Her Empire would be dismembered; her dominions, 


India and her immense African and island possessions would 
be shorn off or transferred to the victors. Ireland would be 
erected into a hostile well-armed republic on the flank of 
Great Britain; and the British people, reduced to a helpless 
condition, would be loaded with overwhelming indemnities 
calculated to shatter their social system, if, indeed, they were 
not actually reduced, in Sir Edward Grey's mordant phrase, 
to the position of 'the conscript appendage of a stronger 
Power.' Less severe conditions than have since been meted 
out to Germany would certainly have sufficed to destroy the 
British Empire at a stroke for ever. The stakes were very 
high. If our naval defence were maintained we were safe 
and sure beyond the lot of any other European nation; if it 
failed, our doom was certain and final. 

To what lengths, therefore, would the Germans go to com- 
pass the destruction of the British Fleet ? Taking the demonic 
view of their character which it was necessary to assume for 
the purposes of considering a war problem, what forms of 
attack ought we to reckon with ? Of course, if Germany had 
no will to war, all these speculations were mere nightmares. 
But if she had the will and intention of making war, it was evi- 
dent that there would be no difficulty in finding a pretext 
arising out of a dispute with France or Russia, to create a situ- 
ation in which war was inevitable, and create it at the most 
opportune moment for herself. The wars of Frederick and 
of Bismarck had shown with what extraordinary rapidity and 
suddenness the Prussian nation was accustomed to fall upon 
its enemy. The Continent was a powder magazine from end 
to end. One single hellish spark and the vast explosion might 
ensue. We had seen what had happened to France in 1870. 
We had seen what neglect to take precautions had brought 
upon the Russian fleet off Port Arthur in 1904. We know 
now what happened to Belgium in 19 14, and, not less remark- 
able, the demand Germany decided to make upon France on 
August 1, 1914, that if she wished to remain neutral while 


Germany attacked Russia, she must as a guarantee hand over 
to German garrisons her fortresses of Verdun and Toul. 

Obviously, therefore, the danger of a "bolt from the Blue" 
was by no means fantastic. Still, might one not reasonably 
expect certain warnings? There would probably be some 
kind of dispute in progress between the great Powers enjoin- 
ing particular vigilance upon the Admiralty. We might hope 
to get information of military and naval movements. It was 
almost certain that there would be financial perturbations in 
the Exchanges of the world indicating a rise of temperature. 
Could we therefore rely upon a week's notice, or three days* 
notice, or at least twenty-four hours' notice before any blow 
actually fell ? 

In Europe, where great nations faced each other with enor- 
mous armies, there was an automatic safeguard against sur- 
prise. Decisive events could not occur till the armies were 
mobilised, and that took at least a fortnight. The supreme 
defence of France, for instance, could not therefore be over- 
come without a great battle in which the main strength of 
the French nation could be brought to bear. But no such 
assurance was enjoyed by the British Fleet. No naval mobili- 
sation was necessary on either side to enable all the modern 
ships to attack one another. They had only to raise steam 
and bring the ammunition to the guns, But beyond this 
grim fact grew the torpedo menace. So far as gunfire alone 
was concerned, our principal danger was for our Fleet to 
be caught divided and to have one vital part destroyed 
without inflicting proportionate damage on the enemy. This 
danger was greatly reduced by wireless, which enabled the 
divided portions to be instantly directed to a common ren- 
dezvous and to avoid action till concentration was effected. 
Besides, gunfire was a game that two could play at. One 
could not contemplate that the main strength of the fleets 
would ever be allowed to come within range of each other 
without taking proper precautions. But the torpedo was es- 


sentially a weapon of surprise, or even treachery; and all that 
was true of the torpedo in a surface vessel applied with tenfold 
force to the torpedo of a submarine. 

Obviously there were limits beyond which it was impossible 
to safeguard oneself. It was not simply a case of a few weeks 
of special precautions. The British Navy had to live its ordi- 
nary life in time of peace. It had to have its cruises and its 
exercises, its periods of leave and refit. Our harbours were 
open to the commerce of the world. Absolute security against 
the worst conceivable treachery was physically impossible. 
On the other hand, even treachery, which required the co- 
operation of very large numbers of people in different stations 
and the setting in motion of an immense and complicated 
apparatus, is not easy to bring about. It was ruled by the 
Committee of Imperial Defence, after grave debate, that the 
Admiralty must not assume that if it made the difference be- 
tween victory and defeat, Germany would stop short of an 
attack on the Fleet in full peace without warning or pretext. 
We had to do our best to live up to this standard, and in the 
main I believe we succeeded. Certainly the position and con- 
dition of the British Fleet was every day considered in relation 
to that of Germany. I was accustomed to check our disposi- 
tions by asking the Staff from time to time, unexpectedly, 
' What happens if war with Germany begins to-day ? ' I never 
found them without an answer which showed that we had the 
power to effect our main concentration before any portion of 
the Fleet could be brought to battle. Our Fleet did not go for 
its cruises to the coast of Spain until we knew that the German 
High Seas Fleet was having its winter refits. When we held 
Grand Manoeuvres we were very careful to arrange the coaling 
and leave which followed in such a way as to secure us the 
power of meeting any blow which could possibly reach us in a 
given time. I know of no moment in the period of which I 
am writing up to the declaration of war in which it was physi- 
cally possible for the British Fleet to have been surprised or 


caught dispersed and divided by any serious German force of 
surface vessels. An attempt in full peace to make a submarine 
attack upon a British squadron in harbour or exercising, or 
to lay mines in an area in which they might be expected to 
exercise, could not wholly be provided against; but in all 
human probability its success would only have been partial. 
Further, I do not believe that such treachery was ever contem- 
plated by the German Admiralty, Government or Emperor. 
While trying as far as possible to guard against even the worst 
possibilities, my own conviction was that there would be a 
cause of quarrel accompanied by a crisis and a fall in markets, 
and followed very rapidly by a declaration of war, or by acts 
of war intended to be simultaneous with the declaration, but 
possibly occurring slightly before. What actually did happen 
was not unlike what I thought would happen. 

Early in 191 2, the Prime Minister set up again, under his 
own chairmanship, the Invasion Committee of the Committee 
of Imperial Defence. This was virtually the Committee which 
had assembled during the Agadir crisis in the previous August, 
and henceforth down to the outbreak of the war it continued 
to meet not infrequently. I asked that Mr. Balfour, who had 
retired from the leadership of the Unionist party, should be 
added to the Committee. This was effected. 

The main question before us was the possibility of the in- 
vasion of Great Britain by Germany; but incidentally many 
other aspects of a war with Germany were patiently and 
searchingly examined. The position which I stated on behalf 
of the Admiralty was briefly as follows: — 

Once the Fleet was concentrated in its war station, no large 
army could be landed in the British Isles. 'Large Army' 
was defined for this purpose as anything over 70,000 men. 
More than that we guaranteed to intercept or break up while 
landing. Less than that could be dealt with by the British 
Regular Army, provided it had not left the country. But the 
War Office proposed to send the whole Expeditionary Force of 


six Divisions out of the country immediately upon the declara- 
tion of war, and to have it all in France by the thirteenth or 
fourteenth day. The Admiralty were unable to guarantee — 
though we thought it very unlikely — that smaller bodies of per- 
haps twenty or thirty thousand Germans might not slip across 
the North Sea. These would have to be met at once by well- 
trained troops. The Territorial Force would not be capable 
in the very early days of their embodiment of coping with the 
invaders. Some regular troops ought, therefore, to be left in 
the country till we saw how matters went at sea, and could 
measure our real position with more certainty. It would be 
a disastrous mistake to begin sending six Divisions, and then 
because of a successful raid have to interrupt the whole proc- 
ess and disentangle two or more Divisions from the troops in 
transit to make head against the raiders. We therefore 
argued that four Divisions only should be sent in the first 
instance, and that two should be left behind till we knew how 
we stood at sea. The presence of these two Divisions at 
home, together with the Territorial Force, would make it not 
worth while for the Germans to invade except with an army 
large enough to be certainly caught in transit by the Fleet. 
Only an army of a certain size at home could give the Navy 
a sufficiently big target on salt water. 'You could not,' as 
Sir Arthur Wilson pithily observed, 'expect the Navy to play 
international football without a goalkeeper.' The War Office, 
on the other hand, continued to demand the immediate dis- 
patch of the whole six Divisions. 

This controversy was never finally settled till the war began. 
It certainly afforded the means of exploring every imaginable 
aspect of the conditions which would arise in the first few weeks 
of war. Further than that no man could see. When the 
actual test came, both the War Office and the Admiralty aban- 
doned their respective contentions simultaneously. Lord 
Kitchener decided to send only four Divisions immediately to 
France, while I on behalf of the Admiralty announced at the 


great War Council on the 5th August that as we were fully 
mobilised and had every ship at its war station, we would take 
the responsibility of guarding the island in the absence of the 
whole six Divisions. We thus completely changed places. 
The Admiralty were better than their word when it came to the 
point, and the War Office more cautious than their intentions. 
Surveying it all in retrospect, I believe Lord Kitchener's de- 
cision was right. But it was taken freely and not under duress 
from the Admiralty. 

While the discussions of the Invasion Committee were at 
their height during the spring and summer of 19 13, 1 prepared 
a series of papers in support of the Admiralty view, but also 
designed to explore and illuminate the situations that might 
arise. They show the hopes and fears we felt before the 
event, what we thought the enemy might do against us, and 
the dangers we hoped to avoid ourselves. They show the 
kind of mental picture I was able to summon up in imagina- 
tion of these tremendous episodes which were so soon to rush 
upon us. My intention also was to stimulate thought in the 
Admiralty War Staff, and to expose weak points in our 
arrangements. For this purpose I entered into an active dis- 
cussion and correspondence with several of the ablest Ad- 
mirals (notably Admiral Beatty, Admiral Lewis Bayly, and 
Sir Reginald Custance), seeking to have the whole matter 
argued out to the utmost limit possible. I caused war games 
to be played at the War College in which, aided by one or 
the other of my naval advisers, I took one side, usually the 
German, and forced certain situations. I also forecasted the 
political data necessary to a study of military and naval 
action on the outbreak of war. 

Various papers which I prepared in 19 13 were the result of 
this process of study and discussion. The first, entitled 
'Notes by the First Lord of the Admiralty,' deals with the 
problem of raid and invasion in general terms, and shows the 
conditions which would prevail in a war with Germany. The 


second propounds the issues to be faced by the War Staff. 
The third records my written discussion of the problem with 
the First Sea Lord, while the sittings of the Invasion Com- 
mittee were proceeding. The fourth and fifth were entitled 
'The Time-Table of a Nightmare' and 'A Bolt from the 
Grey/ imaginative exercises couched in a half serious vein, 
but designed to disturb complacency by suggesting weak 
points in our arrangements and perilous possibilities. Space 
forbids the inclusion of these last. The first three have been 
subjected to a certain compression. 


It is much harder for the British Navy to stop raids or an 
invasion from Germany to-day than it was fifteen years ago 
from France. The tension between England and France had 
in the course of successive generations led to the development 
of a sea front opposite to France of great military strength. 
The line Berehaven, Queenstown, Pembroke, Falmouth, 
Plymouth, Portland, Portsmouth, Newhaven, Dover, Sheer- 
ness, and Chatham, covers with suitable defences every point 
of strategic significance, comprises three great naval bases and 
dockyards, and two torpedo-proof war harbours (Portland 
and Dover). In close proximity to this line are our three 
principal military establishments, the Curragh, Salisbury and 

From the British military harbours and bases on this line 
close observation of all French Channel ports where transports 
could be assembled can be maintained by a superior British 
naval force. Cherbourg and Havre can be controlled from 
Portland, and Calais and Boulogne from Dover. Flotillas and 
light craft employed on this service of observation would have 
their own home base close at hand, and a high proportion could 
be constantly maintained on duty. The proximity of the 
battle fleets in the numerous well-protected harbours, where 
every necessity is supplied, ensures the effective support of 
the flotillas against any serious attempt to drive them off. 

Very different is the situation on the sea front against 


Germany. With the exception of Chatham, no naval base or 
military harbour exists. Chatham itself has no graving docks 
for the later Dreadnoughts, and the depth of the Medway 
imposes serious limitations of tides and seasons upon great 
vessels using the dockyard. Harwich affords anchorage only 
to torpedo-craft [and light cruisers], and is lightly defended. 
The Humber and the Tyne are unsuitable for large battle 
fleets, and are but lightly defended. Rosyth will not be ready 
even as a war repairing-base till 191 6 at the earliest. Defences 
are being erected at Cromarty, and a temporary floating base 
is in process of creation at that point. 1 Only improvised emer- 
gency arrangements are contemplated for Scapa Flow, and the 
Shetlands are quite unprotected. The only war bases available 
for the fleet along the whole of this front are Rosyth, Cromarty, 
and Scapa — the more remote being preferred, although the 
least defended. The landing places along the coast are numer- 
ous, extensive, and evenly distributed; the strategic objec- 
tives open to an enemy are numerous and important. The 
Shetlands are a strategic position of the highest consequence, 
totally undefended and ungarrisoned. The same is true of 
the Orkneys. Edinburgh and Glasgow, Newcastle, Hull, and 
Harwich are all points of primary importance. No large mili- 
tary garrisons comparable to those on the southern front exist. 
But the comparison of the new conditions with the old be- 
comes most unfavourable when we extend our view from the 
British to the German coast. It is difficult to find any sea 
front of greater natural defensive strength than the German 
North Sea coast. Intricate navigation, shifting and extensive 
sandbanks and currents, strong tides, frequent mists and 

J No one can form any idea of the difficulties the Admiralty en- 
countered in securing adequate defences for Eastern harbours. Coast 
Defence was in the province of the War Office and paid for on their 
estimates. They needed every penny for their Field Army and Ex- 
peditionary Force, and naturally marshalled all their experts against 
expenditure on fortifications in Great Britain. In consequence expert 
opinion was always divided. The discussions evaporated in tech- 
nicalities, and the lay members of the Committee were rarely con- 
vinced of the unwelcome need of spending money, j To such a point 
was the dispute carried, that Prince Louis and I undertook in desper- 
ation to fortify Cromarty ourselves, arm it with naval guns and man 
it with marines. And this was the only new work completed when 
the war broke out. 


storms, make the Heligoland Bight a very difficult theatre for 
oversea operations. The deep re-entrant widening into a 
broad debouch, flanked at each side by lines of islands and sus- 
tained in the centre by Heligoland, confers the greatest possi- 
ble natural advantages upon the defence. To these have been 
added, and are being added, everything that military art can 
devise. Heligoland is an almost impregnable fortress and an 
advanced torpedo and airship station. Borkum and Sylt 
are both heavily defended by batteries, mine-fields, and strong 
garrisons, and both can be commanded by fire from the main- 
land. Into this great defended area, with its wide debouch 
facing towards us, access is given from the Ems, the Elbe, the 
Weser, the Jade and from the Kiel Canal communicating 
with the Baltic, and open for Dreadnoughts at the present 
year. Within this area are all the naval establishments of Ger- 
many. A fleet or transports assembled at either end of the Kiel 
Canal have the widely separated alternatives of emerging either 
from the Heligoland Bight or from the Baltic for offensive pur- 
poses. There would be no difficulty on the declaration of war in 
assembling unperceived at Hamburg, Kiel, Wilhelm shaven, and 
other ports, the shipping necessary to transport at least 20,000 
men; enough to transport 10,000 men is always in those ports. 
Large garrisons exist in the neighbourhood, amply sufficient to 
supply whatever military force was required. The Germans 
possess to-day large ships of the liner class suitable for trans- 
port in a way which the French never did. The rigour with 
which agents suspected of sending information have been pur- 
sued during the last five or six years has made it difficult to 
arrange for the transmission of intelligence. Consular officers 
are marked men; and it is to be expected that their communi- 
cations by the usual postal and telegraphic channels will be 
delayed if hostilities are imminent. Although the sources from 
which information may be obtained have been increased in 
numbers during recent years, and are still being increased as 
opportunity offers, yet the Admiralty are not prepared to make 
any confident assertion that a force of upwards of 20,000 men 
could not be collected in time of peace, and embarked without 
their knowledge. As a matter of fact, very considerable 
embarkations of a test character have been carried out without 
our having any knowledge until some days after the event. 
The continuous development of the mine and the torpedo 


makes it impossible to establish a close watch with heavy ships 
on the exits from the Heligoland Bight. To do so for a long 
period of time would mean a steady and serious wastage of 
valuable units from the above causes, and, if prolonged, would 
effectually alter the balance of naval power. On the other 
hand, torpedo craft, which cannot keep at sea like great ves- 
sels, and must every three or four days return to port for rest 
and replenishment, have no base nearer than Harwich, 240 
miles away. The operation of controlling the debouches from 
the Heligoland Bight by means of flotillas would require twice 
the number of oversea torpedo craft that we now possess. 
The watch would have to be maintained in three reliefs: one 
on duty, one in transit, and one at rest, and therefore only a 
third of the existing vessels would be available at any given 
time. Such a force could be overwhelmed by a sudden attack 
of two or three times their numbers by a well-chosen blow, 
opportunities for which would frequently recur. Unless, 
therefore, we were to take by storm some fortified German 
island which could be held as a base, or were permitted to use 
Dutch or Danish territory, the closing of the debouches of the 
Heligoland Bight by a close flotilla cordon is, in the opinion 
of the Admiralty, impracticable at present. 

The development of submarines of ocean-going capacity 
may be expected to modify this situation in our favour. 

The problem of controlling the alternative debouches from 
the Baltic by watching over the Skaw or the Belts presents 
many of the features that have been found so unfavourable in 
regard to the Heligoland Bight. Nothing effective could be 
done, or still less maintained, with our present forces without 
using the territory of Norway or Denmark, or both. It 
must be borne in mind that the enemy have the option of 
striking with their whole force on either line. 

On the assumption that a close blockade, either of the Heli- 
goland Bight or of the exits from the Baltic, is not possible, 
the Admiralty cannot guarantee that individual vessels will 
not frequently slip through the cruiser squadrons patrolling 
the wide area of the North Sea. The North Sea comprises an 
area of more than 125,000 square miles. The number of 
cruisers available is less than 30, of which a large proportion 


will always be recoaling. The aid that can be given at a dis- 
tance from the British shore by torpedo craft would be partial 
and fleeting. The weather is frequently thick; on a third of 
the days in the year the visibility is not more than 4 miles; on 
a quarter of the days in the year it is not more than 2 miles. 
There are about five days fog per month during the year. 
April averages ten days fog. At night it is frequently impossi- 
ble to see a ship without lights at more than a few hundred 
yards distance, and often not at that. It is no exaggeration 
to say that the main risk which a single fast ship would run, 
steaming at night without lights, would be that of collision, 
which chance may be very well accepted. It will be easy to 
demonstrate this by experiments at the forthcoming manoeu- 
vres. If, therefore, close and certain observation becomes 
impossible, there is a very good chance of an indefinite succes- 
sion of individual transports reaching the British coasts with- 
out being intercepted by the controlling cruiser squadrons. 

Let us now consider what arrangements exist or are possible 
along the line of the British coasts to detect and attack such 

Four flotilla cruisers, seventy-four destroyers and torpedo- 
boats, and eighteen submarines are placed under the command 
of the Admiral of Patrols for the defence of the East Coast from 
the Shetlands to Dover; less than 100 vessels and more than 
600 miles of sea front. It is quite impossible with such a small 
force to maintain a regular patrol, or still less a line of observa- 
tion. These flotillas are not intended for observation, but to 
attack. To employ them on the former service, for which 
their numbers are wholly insufficient, would speedily exhaust 
them: at least half would have to be resting and refuelling. 
It is not possible with the forces available for the patrol flo- 
tillas to prevent enemy vessels from reaching the British 
coast. Our dispositions are intended to make it certain that 
they will be attacked in force with the least possible delay. 

A curious distinction attaches to the work of naval coast 
defence. Usually the line of observation lies in advance of the 
line of resistance. In coast defence the line of observation is 
in rear of the line of resistance. So far as the patrol flotillas 
are concerned, the British coasts are themselves the only true 
and certain line of observation. The approach of an enemy 
may be undetected by the cruising squadrons or by the patrol- 


ling flotillas. But it ought to be certain that his first contact 
with the coast at any point is reported to the Admiral of Pa- 
trols, and that that officer will have his available forces massed 
at convenient points from which an attack can be at once de- 
livered. The Admiral of Patrols must treat his problems 
selectively and recognise that absolute certainty is out of 
reach, that his flotillas are for fighting purposes, and that their 
role of scouting is secondary. It is of very little use reporting 
the approach of an enemy when one has not the forces with 
which to strike him. The patrol flotillas are therefore kept in 
hand at the best strategic points, neither scattered nor ex- 
hausted, and a system of land observation by outposts, cyclists, 
aircraft and signal stations, all connected by telephone, ought 
to be perfected, from which accurate information can be trans- 
mitted to the points where the patrol flotillas are massed. 

Dalesvoe (Shetlands), Fort Ross, Firth of Forth, North 
Shields, Grimsby, and Yarmouth are the bases of the patrol 
flotillas, and a force of fourteen or fifteen vessels would, on 
the average, be available for each. It is upon this disposition 
that the Admiralty rely to interrupt the disembarkation of 
any considerable force. It is of vital importance that the 
watching of the coast-line from the shore should be taken up 
from the earliest moment and in advance of general mobilisa- 
tion. The effectiveness of the work of the patrol flotillas and 
consequently the restriction of possible landings depend upon 
early information being received of any disembarkation. 
The size of any raiding party that could be landed will, of 
course, be accurately proportionate to the delay. It would no 
doubt be impossible or undesirable to put the whole system 
of coast watches into operation in the precautionary period. 
No doubt the arrangements made after war had actually begun 
would be much more thorough, and larger numbers of cyclists 
and watchers would be available. But a system of watching 
likely landing-places ought to be devised which could be 
brought silently into operation as soon as the precautionary 
period is declared or, if necessary, immediately before, just in 
the same way as the watch over the magazines and other vital 
points can unostentatiously be improved. 

It may well be, therefore, that the coast watch should be set 
up in two stages: the first secret, and the second open. For 
the first the police and selected cyclists from the Territorial 


Force would appear to be the only resources. It ought to be 
possible to organise a pretty effective watch with these, and to 
make arrangements which could be actually rehearsed in 
time of peace in connection with the work of the patrol flotillas. 
It is not so much armed force which is required as vigilant 
watching by persons who know what to look for and where to 
report their information. Aerial squadrons along the coast- 
line or airships would appear to be of the greatest value. The 
new naval aeroplane stations which are being constructed will 
be of service for this purpose. After war has been declared, or 
general mobilisation ordered, the full arrangements devised by 
the War Office could come into force in their entirety, but it is 
imperative that the precautionary period in advance of mobili- 
sation should be provided for. 
March 29, 1913. 


{Address to the Admiralty War Staff) 

The problem of oversea attack requires to be examined under 
three heads: — 

(1.) Absolute surprise to-morrow (19th April): everything 
going on as usual — Bolt from the Blue. 

Objectives of raiders — to prevent the Expeditionary Force 
being sent to help France, and incidentally, if possible, to 
damage naval arsenals and dockyards. 

(2.) The whole expeditionary army has gone to India or 
some other distant theatre of war. The war has been going on 
some time: the Territorials have been embodied, but great 
numbers have been allowed to proceed on leave. The Second 
Fleet has been completed to full strength by the closing of the 
schools. The Immediate Reserve has been called out; and 
the whole of the First and Second Fleets are in those harbours 
which enable them to reach their actual war stations as quickly 
as possible. The patrol flotillas are mobilised in their war sta- 
tions. The forts are manned, and the coastal look-out is 
active. But this has been going on for several months while 
complete peace continues in Europe. The tension has begun 
to be somewhat relaxed, and we have settled down to our ordi- 
nary way of life, while at the same time taking special precau- 
tions and having our forces so disposed that they are easily 


and readily available on the slightest sign of danger. This 
may be called " Bolt from the Grey." The only adequate ob- 
jective of the enemy in this case would be invasion in such 
force as to overcome the comparatively feeble military estab- 
lishment on foot in the United Kingdom. 

(3.) War with Germany has begun. All the fleets are fully 
mobilised and in active operation against the enemy according 
to the war plans of the Admiralty. The objectives open to 
the enemy would be minor raids to destroy naval arsenals and 
dockyards: the seizure of bases for flotilla action (this last may 
occur also in 1 and 2), and threats or attempts to invade in 
force to distract or divide the British fleet simultaneously 
with bringing about a great fleet action. 

All these three situations with their variants deserve pa- 
tient examination. 

2. The first condition governing the dimensions of over- 
sea attack from Germany is the number of troops available — 
(i.) Instantly; 

(ii.) In twenty-four hours; and 
(iii.) At any time after a general mobilisation is complete. 

5. A second great limiting condition is the shipping available 
in German ports. For all phases after the war has become 
open, whether under 1, 2, or 3, ample shipping is available of 
every class required, and the matter need not be further con- 
sidered. But in case 1, the invading force is limited by the 
amount of suitable shipping available instantly at the right 
ports, and secondly, by what is available after 24 hours: in 
case 2 by the amount of shipping available instantly. After 
that, when war has actually begun, there is no difficulty in find- 
ing the ships or the men; the only difficulty is to get them 

6. The third condition is the time taken to embark, trans- 
port, and land the various forces at different points concur- 
rently and alternatively. This requires separate calculations 
in every case. These are complicated by the hours of daylight 
and darkness, the tides, the weather, and other uncertain 
features. Each case must be worked out separately, and 
risked on its merits. 

7. The last consideration is the distance of the practicable 



objective from the landing-point. Here again each case must 
be considered individually: — 

Harwich is invaluable because it threatens London, and is 
unquestionably the best place for so doing. In no other way 
could you react so instantaneously upon British public opin- 
ion. On the other hand, once the invaders were turned out, 
the actual damage done would be small. 

Immingham is a purely local injury not worth touching 
before war breaks out, and afterwards belonging to the 
* driblets' phase. 

Blyth or the Tyne are striking places for Newcastle, in- 
volving considerable moral effect and immense permanent 
damage, not of a vital character. 

The Tay (Dundee) is valuable as affording a good landing- 
place and ample supplies for a large army (if it could get there), 
within effective striking distance of Glasgow and the Clyde. 

Cromarty, as long as it is undefended by land and if unde- 
fended by ships, would be a good place of disembarkation for 
a large force, but they would be isolated in barren country 
with great natural difficulties between them and any real 
vulnerable point. Cromarty and the Invergordon oil tanks 
might, however, be the object of a minor raid in the ' driblets ' 
phase, if undefended. 

Balta Sound, in the Shetlands, and those islands generally 
would be of the greatest value as a flotilla base to the Germans. 
Until they were expelled from them, which would be costly 
both in ships and men, all attempts to blockade the North 
Sea would be rendered futile. 

On the West Coast there are numerous undefended landing- 
places in sheltered waters suitable for the disembarkation of 
a.large force (if it could get there). Oban, 60 miles away from 
the Clyde, deserves special attention. The mouth of the Clyde 
itself, which is lightly defended by land and has only three 
submarines at Lamlash, is suitable both for the landing of a 
large force and also for a raid on an arsenal. The same may 
be said of Barrow. 

This would seem to exhaust the principal serviceable land- 
ing-places which should be considered, but there may be 

a* r? q W. S. C. 

April 18, 1913. 



{Addressed to the First Sea Lord.) 

(marginal notes by first sea lord.) 



Should like to limit this to two 
or three ports at most. 

36 answers this, 
assumption is risky. 

(b) The latter should, I think, be 




The following assumptions appear to me 
at present advised, to be justified: — 

1. That not more than 20,000 men could be 
collected and embarked in German North 
Sea Ports without our knowing it before the 
expedition actually sailed; but that up to 
that number might actually put to sea before 
we were warned, 
otherwise the 2. That no military expedition of upwards 
of 10,000 men could reach the British coast 
before the general alarm was given. 

3. That the intention of the German Gov- 
ernment to attack us would either (a) be 
discovered or (b) , more probably, formally de- 
clared while the expedition was in transit. 

4. That, having regard to the time taken in 
transit, three to six hours' warning would have 
been given throughout the country, along the 
coasts, and at all ports, and preparations ad- 
vanced accordingly. 

5. That any expedition arriving at a port 
must expect to encounter resistance from 
whatever forces or defences are on the spot 
after three hours' alarm notice; but that no 
one place can be considered more certain than 
another, and that only the ordinary prepara- 
tions prescribed under our existing mobilisa- 
tion arrangements have been made at each 
particular place. 

6. That any German expedition seeking to 
seize a port defended or otherwise must be 
provided with an escort sufficient to overcome 
the local defences and to beat off the British 


torpedo craft or cruisers known to be in the 

7. That the moment Chosen Will be One Assuming that some kind of diplo- 
i ,1 t> ... 1 t, ,,1 -r-i! . . .1 . » matic discussion had preceded the 

when the British Battle Fleet is on the south- Declaration of war it is to be hoped 

west or west coasts of Great Britain or Ireland. Stoftut Ji^tfel? 11 " 

8. That the return of the Battle Fleet to Our own flotillas should be able 
the North Sea will be obstructed by mines t0 clear the road - 

and submarines, and at night by flotilla 

9. That pending the return of the Battle JSSTftHfer&Sfift 
Fleet the German Navy will have the com- there win be 2nd Fleet ships from 

- f - __ , _ J . . . . Nore, also Nore Flotilla, besides 

mand of the North Sea, and that so long as it patrol vessels to deal with. 

holds the command of the North Sea it can 

continue, though at considerable risk, to pass 

individual vessels, in addition to the original 

20,000 men, into the defended harbour which 

has been seized. The maximum time which 

in the most unfavourable circumstances would 

elapse before the return of the British Fleet 

to the North Sea and consequent resumption 

of British naval superiority is therefore a vital _ . „ . . 

, , , i , \ , . . The time-table given in your "Bolt 

matter, and should be worked out m as many from the Blue" is quite sufficient, 

. «i 1 1 xt_ j. re aQ d cannot be varied to any appre- 

vanants as possible by the staff. dabie extent. 

10. That the British Fleet when it has re- 
turned to the North Sea, whether north- 
about or through the Straits of Dover, may 
have to fight a general battle at once with the 

whole strength of the enemy: and that during , Tt t is alm u ost h °P5 les . s to forecast 

. ,... J ,, ° what may happen during this cnti- 

tne preliminaries, the progress, and the after- cai time No escorts could then 
math of this battle attempts may be made 
either to reinforce the original landing or to 
make further landings at other points on the 
British coasts. 

11. That Sabotage, i.e. aCtS Of treachery Resident Germans may certainly 

before a declaration of war, are improbable, but TLre^redwlVaTumber ISfofc 
that they may occur simultaneously with the cersoverhere map-making. 
first military hostilities, and that in any case 
they are not included in the present phase of 
the inquiry which deals essentially with mili- 
tary operations. W S P 

April 26, 1913. 

be spared. 




certainly. It is useless labour to work out in detail a 

series of conventional operations. It is only 
necessary to work out real operations, i.e. 
the sort of operations an enemy might be 
expected to attempt. The numbers of these 
are limited: there are only four types. 
a Except local co-operation {see 2 First, sabotage, by which is meant acts 

of treachery perpetrated by persons or vessels 
in disguise before any declaration of war. 
Instances of these acts are given by Captain 
Hankey in his paper. They are an important 
study, but they do not touch the problems we 
are now examining, and they are therefore 
excluded for the present. 

3. Secondly, a military raid on Blyth for 
the purpose of destroying Elswick. 

We have hitherto assumed 10,000 men for 
Blyth-Newcastle; either more or less may be 
required. The force must be numerous 
enough to make its way in the face of sporadic 
opposition by unmobilised territorials and by 
the population, from Blyth to Elswick; to 
seize and destroy effectively the Elswick 
Works and the ships in the Tyne. It seems 
improbable that less than 10,000 men would 
be sufficient. 

4. Thirdly, a raid of not less than 20,000 
men on Harwich, with the object of stopping 
the regular army from going to France. 


The Harwich operation is essentially — 

(a.) The secret concentration and embarka- 
tion of 20,000 men. 

(b.) The destruction of the floating and 
land defences of Harwich by the 
escorting hostile squadron. 

(c.) The disembarkation of 20,000 men 
with a proportion of artillery before 
the British Fleet can arrive in suffi- 
cient force to give battle. 




5. Fourthly, a landing in the Firth of Tay. 

This is not worth doing unless the force 
landed is at least 35,000 men. It is assumed 
that war has begun before the enemy actually 
completed their embarkation; that the British 
Fleet has been forced to concentrate to the 
southward * in order to fight a general battle 
with the German Fleet; that in consequence 
the northern waters of the North Sea are 
denuded of ships; and that the passage of fif- 
teen or twenty independent transports to a 
fixed rendezvous, as suggested, will not be 
obstructed by any naval force which could 
not be overcome by the German warship 
escort. f In this case the forts are fully 
manned and the whole coast is alarmed and 
vigilant. The enemy's transports must be 
escorted and protected by cruisers or old 
battleships; the opposition of the forts must 
be beaten down, and any resistance by local 
territorials on land must be overcome and 
quelled. The objective of the invaders is 
Glasgow and the Clyde. The whole six di- 
visions of the expeditionary force have left 
England for a distant war.§ 

The question to be resolved is whether 
these are all the operations which need be con- 
sidered at the present time. Are they prac- 
ticable ? * And if so, to what extent ? f How 
could they be achieved ? { What are the cir- 
cumstances most favourable to their suc- 
cess ? § What are the measures which should 
be taken in each case ? || 

The times and conditions which I have 
prescribed are illustrative of the problem; 
and before any attempt is made to work out 
these cases in detail the conditions should be 
formulated exactly. 

April 24, 1 913. 

•The transports are not likely 
to sail before some certainty as to 
whereabouts of our Fleet has been 
obtained. Every delay adds to the 
number of cruisers, &c, which 
would be in the way. 

fl doubt if much in the way of 
escort could be spared. The enemy 
must be prepared to meet our entire 
superior force in North Sea. 

w. s. c. 

On the whole this seems a very 
risky undertaking, but by no means 
impossible, and on the assumption 
§ above, quite worth trying. 

* First three certainly, 
t With limitations. 
t As described. 

§ Knowledge that we intend to 
send army to France, the strongest 
inducement, amounting almost to 
military necessity. 
|| Navy — 

Provide sea defences for 

Strengthen existing ones (not- 
ably Harwich) on East 
Man them on the principle 
of a ship in commission 
with nucleus crew. 
Provide local submarine de- 
fence flotillas at the prin- 
cipal East Coast ports. 

Army — 
Adhere rigidly to the Com- 
mittee of Imperial Defence 
recommendations (1908), as 
accepted by His Majesty's 
Government, [i.e. retain 
two divisions at home.] 


These papers are sufficient to show that we did not ignore 
the dangers that lay before us or neglect the attempt to 
penetrate their mysteries. It is easy to underrate the diffi- 
culty of such work in days of peace. 

In time of war there is great uncertainty as to what the 
enemy will do and what will happen next. But still, once you 
are at war the task is definite and all-dominating. Whatever 
may be your surmises about the enemy or the future, your 
own action is circumscribed within practical limits. There are 
only a certain number of alternatives open. Also, you live 
in a world of reality where theories are constantly being cor- 
rected and curbed by experiment. Resultant facts accumulate 
and govern to a very large extent the next decision. 

But suppose the whole process of war is transported out of 
the region of reality into that of imagination. Suppose you 
have to assume to begin with that there will be a war at all; 
secondly, that your country will be in it when it comes; 
thirdly, that you will go in as a united nation and that the 
nation will be united and convinced in time, and that the neces- 
sary measures will be taken before it is too late, — then the proc- 
esses of thought become speculative indeed. Every set of as- 
sumptions which it is necessary to make, draws new veils of 
varying density in front of the dark curtain of the future. 
The life of the thoughtful soldier or sailor in time of peace 
is made up of these experiences — intense effort, amid every 
conceivable distraction, to pick out across and among a swarm 
of confusing hypotheses what actually will happen on a given 
day and what actually must be done to meet it before that day 
is ended. Meanwhile all around people, greatly superior in 
authority and often in intelligence, regard him as a plotting 
knave, or at the best an overgrown child playing with toys, 
and dangerous toys at that. 

Therefore the most we could do in the days before the war 
was to attempt to measure and forecast what would happen to 
England on the outbreak and in the first few weeks of a war 


with Germany. To look farther was beyond the power of man. 
To try to do so was to complicate the task beyond mental 
endurance. The paths of thought bifurcated too rapidly. 
Would there be a great sea battle or not? What would 
happen then ? Who would win the great land battle ? No 
one could tell. Obviously the first thing was to be ready; 
not to be taken unawares: to be concentrated; not to be caught 
divided : to have the strongest Fleet possible in the best station 
under the best conditions in good time, and then if the battle 
came one could await its result with a steady heart. Every- 
thing, therefore, to guard against surprise; everything, there- 
fore, to guard against division; everything, therefore, to in- 
crease the strength of the forces available for the supreme sea 

But suppose the enemy did not fight a battle at sea. And 
suppose the battle on land was indeterminate in its results. 
And suppose the war went on not for weeks or months, but 
for years. Well, then it would be far easier to judge those 
matters at the time, and far easier then, when everybody was 
alarmed and awake and active, to secure the taking of the 
necessary steps; and there would be time to take them. No 
stage would be so difficult or so dangerous as the first stage. 
The problems of the second year of war must be dealt with 
by the experience of the first year of war. The problems of 
the third year of war must be met by results observed and un- 
derstood in the second, and so on. 

I repulse, therefore, on behalf of the Boards of Admiralty 
over which I presided down to the end of May, 191 5, all 
reproaches directed to what occurred in 19 17 and 1918. I can- 
not be stultified by any lessons arising out of those years. It 
is vain to tell me that if the Germans had built in the three 
years before the war, the submarines they built in the three 
years after it had begun, Britain would have been undone; or 
that if England had had in August, 19 14, the army which we 
possessed a year later, there would have been no war. Every 


set of circumstances involved every other set of circumstances. 
Would Germany in profound peace have been allowed by Great 
Britain to build an enormous fleet of submarines which could 
have no other object than the starvation and ruin of this 
island through the sinking of unarmed merchant ships ? 
Would Germany have waited to attack France while England 
raised a powerful conscript army to go to her aid ? 

Every event must be judged in fair relation to the circum- 
stances of the time ? and only in such relation. 

In examining the questions with which this chapter has been 
concerned, I was accustomed to dwell upon the dangers and 
the darker side of things. I did this to some extent intention- 
ally, in order to create anxiety which would lead to timely 
precautions. Every danger set forth we tried to meet. Many 
we met. More never matured, either because they were pre- 
vented by proper measures, or because the Germans were less 
enterprising than I thought it prudent to assume. I will 
end on a more robust note. 

The following letter was written by me on November 1, 
1913, to a friend — a high naval authority — who had delivered 
a pessimistic lecture at the War College. 

Do you not think you are looking at the problem from a 
weak and one-sided point of view which sees only the dangers 
which menace us and is blind to all the far greater dangers 
which surround the weaker fleet ? 

Taking your hypothesis that the German Fleet come out to 
fight with every unit they can bring into line, why should it 
be supposed that we should not be able to defeat them? A 
study of the comparative fleet strength in the line of battle 
will be found reassuring. 

Why are our Second Fleet ships, which do not require a 
single reservist, to be considered less ready than German ships 
dependent on mobilised men ? 

Why should it be supposed that a British Fleet is bound to 
fight the German Fleet at the exact time and place the German 
Fleet desires ? 


Why should we not, if we wish, refuse battle until any de- 
tached division has joined up ? 

Why should we be forced to follow the enemy on to his 
selected ground (presumably, from your paper, off our coasts) 
when a movement across his communications would not only 
place us in healthy waters but cut him from his only hope of 
retreat and fuel ? 

Why should the British Battle Fleets have to fly the North 
Sea when the Germans apparently can move about in perfect 
safety ? 

All this drift of mind is pusillanimous. Put yourself for a 
few moments in the position of the Admiral Commanding the 
weaker fleet. If he goes out to fight 'with every unit/ he 
knows he must expect to be attacked by a force at least three 
to two superior in numbers, superior in addition in strength, 
and superior by far ship for ship and squadron for squadron, 
in quality. 

He knows he will have to move with his weaker force into 
waters which (to him) will appear ' infested ' by 70 or 80 Brit- 
ish submarines and over 200 sea-going torpedo craft. He 
knows that he must sooner or later, and sooner much rather 
than later, return to German ports to coal; and that if he is 
cut off either by the British Fleet or by the British submarines, 
or preferably by both, he runs the gravest risk of being not 
merely defeated but destroyed. If he tries to reduce his in- 
feriority in the line of battle by attempting diversions in the 
shape of landings, he knows he will have to send transports 
crowded with men through waters commanded by an unfought 
superior enemy and swarming with torpedo craft, any one of 
which will send 5,000 or 6,000 men to the bottom. 
. If he succeeds by great good fortune, probably at a heavy 
sacrifice, in landing 15,000 or 20,000 men, he knows that is 
perfectly useless unless it can be reinforced by three or four 
times as many. 

He knows that if his raid is not successfully supported within 
a very few days those already on shore will have been killed 
or captured, and he will have to begin all over again. 

Lastly, he knows what people at manoeuvres so often forget, 
viz., that cannons kill men and smash ships and that battles 
produce decisions against which there is no appeal. 

He knows that it will pay his enemy to lose ship for ship 


with him in every class, and that when this melancholy proc- 
ess has run its full course that enemy would still have on the 
water a fleet in being not less numerous than that with which 
Germany had begun the war. 

If, knowing all this, the 'naturally offensive character of 
the German ' leads him to come out and stake everything on 
a pitched battle, surely that ought to be a cause to us of pro- 
found satisfaction. 

The second hypothesis — the war of harassments — is more 
indeterminate, and both sides may look about for some means 
of waiting on each other without undue risk, till decisive 
periods supervene. For after all a ship can only fight another 
ship when she meets her. 


The Oil Reserves and Supply — The Anglo-Persian Agreement — The 
1 914 Estimates — The Rise of Naval Expenditure — The Canadian 
Ships — The Conflict over the Estimates — The Admiralty Case — 
A New Year's Declaration — Final Stage of the Estimates — The 
European Calm and the Anglo-German Detente — Renewed Ef- 
forts for an Anglo-German Naval Agreement — British Party 
Strife and Irish Feuds — Aggravation of the Irish Struggle — Fac- 
tion — The Curragh Episode — Parliamentary Fury — Appeals to 
Reason — The Buckingham Palace Conference — Visits of the 
British Squadrons to Kiel and Kronstadt — The Crime of Sara- 
jevo — The Sunlit World — Origin of the Test Mobilisation — The 
Great Review. 

TAURING the whole of 19 13 I was subjected to an ever- 
■*— * growing difficulty about the oil supply. We were now 
fully committed to oil as the sole, motive power for a large 
proportion of the Fleet, including all the newest and most vital 
units. There was great anxiety on the Board of Admiralty 
and in the War Staff about our oil-fuel reserves. The Second 
Sea Lord, Sir John Jellicoe, vehemently pressed for very 
large increases in the scales contemplated. The Chief of the 
War Staff was concerned not only about the amount of the re- 
serves but about the alleged danger of using so explosive a 
fuel in ships of war. Lastly, Lord Fisher's Royal Commis- 
sion, actuated by Admiralty disquietude, showed themselves 
inclined to press for a reserve equal to four years' expected 
war consumption. The war consumption itself had been esti- 
mated on the most liberal scale by the Naval Staff. The 
expense of creating the oil reserve was however enormous. 
Not only had the oil to be bought in a monopoly-ridden mar- 
ket, but large installations of oil tanks had to be erected and 



land purchased for the purpose. Although this oil-fuel re- 
serve when created was clearly, whether for peace or war, as 
much an asset of the State as the gold reserve in the Bank of 
England, we were not allowed to treat it as capital expendi- 
ture: all must be found out of the current Estimates. At the 
same time, the Treasury and my colleagues in the Cabinet were 
becoming increasingly indignant at the naval expense, which 
it might be contended was largely due to my precipitancy in 
embarking on oil-burning battleships and also in wantonly 
increasing the size of the guns and the speed and armour of 
these vessels. On the one hand, therefore, I was subjected to 
this evergrowing naval pressure, and on the other to a solid 
wall of resistance to expense. In the midst of all lay the exist- 
ence of our naval power. 

I had thus to fight all the year on two fronts: on one to re- 
pulse the excessive and, as I thought, extravagant demands 
of the Royal Commission and of my naval advisers, and on the 
other to wrest the necessary supplies from the Treasury and 
the Cabinet. I had to be very careful that arguments intended 
for one front did not become known to my antagonists on the 
other. I wrote to Lord Fisher that to prescribe a four years 
standard of reserves would be the death-blow to the oil policy 
of which he was the champion. I was forced to enter into 
arguments of extreme technical detail with the Second Sea 
Lord and the War Staff both as to the probable consumption 
per month of oil in the opening phases of a naval war, and 
secondly upon the number of months' supply that should be 
in the country in each individual month. I had extreme diffi- 
culties with the Board of Admiralty in regard to the reductions 
which I thought necessary in both scales, and I feared for some 
time that I should lose the services of the Second Sea Lord. 
This, however, was happily averted and we finally agreed upon 
reduced scales which were in the end accepted by all concerned. 
These conclusions stood the test of war. 

The reduced scales estimated a total consumption in the 


first ten months of war of 1,000,000 tons. The actual con- 
sumption was 8oo,ooo. At the end of the ten months we held 
1,000,000 tons in reserve, or another twelve months' supply 
at the current rate of expenditure, apart from further pur- 
chases which proceeded ceaselessly on the greatest scale. 

During this year (19 13) also I carried through the House 
of Commons the Bill authorising the Anglo-Persian Oil Con- 
vention. This encountered a confusing variety of opposi- 
tions — economists deprecating naval expenditure; members 
for mining constituencies who were especially sensible of the 
danger of departing from the sound basis of British coal; oil 
magnates who objected to a national inroad upon their 
monopolies; Conservatives who disapproved of State trading; 
partisan opponents who denounced the project as an unwar- 
rantable gamble with public money and did not hesitate to im- 
pute actual corruption. There was always a danger of these 
divergent forces combining on some particular stage or point. 
However, we gradually threaded our way through these diffi- 
culties and by the Autumn the Convention was the law of the 
land. We now at any rate had an oil supply of our own. 

All our financial commitments, fomented by rising prices 
and the ever-increasing complexity and refinement of naval 
appliances, came remorselessly to a head at the end of 19 13 
when the Estimates for the new year had to be presented 
first to the Treasury and then to the Cabinet. Knowing that 
the conflict would be most severe, I warned all Admiralty 
departments to be well ahead with their financial work and 
to prepare justification for the unprecedented demands we 
were obliged to make. We set forth our case in a volume of 
some eighty pages in which we analysed minutely each vote 
and marshalled our reasons. The main burden of this task 
fell upon the Financial Secretary, Dr. Macnamara, whose long 
experience of Admiralty business was invaluable. 

We failed to reach any agreement with the Treasury in the 
preliminary discussions, and the whole issue was remitted to 


the Cabinet at the end of November. There followed nearly 
five months of extreme dispute and tension, during which 
Naval Estimates formed the main and often the sole topic of 
conversation at no less than fourteen full and prolonged meet- 
ings of the Cabinet. At the outset I found myself almost in a 
minority of one. I was not in a position to give way on any 
of the essentials, especially in regard to the Battleship pro- 
gramme, without departing from the calculated and declared 
standards of strength on which the whole of our policy to- 
wards Germany depended. The Cabinet had decided in 19 12 
to maintain equality in the Mediterranean with the Austrian 
Fleet, four Dreadnoughts of which were steadily building. 
Moreover, the issue was complicated by the promised three 
Canadian Dreadnoughts. The Canadian Government had 
stipulated that these should be additional to the 60 per cent, 
standard. We had formally declared that they were indis- 
pensable, and on this assurance Sir Robert Borden was com- 
mitted to a fierce party fight in Canada. As it was now clear, 
owing to the action of the Canadian Senate, that these ' addi- 
tional' 'indispensable' ships would not be laid down in the 
ensuing year, I was forced to demand the earlier laying down 
of three at least of the battleships of the 19 14-15 programme. 
This was a very hard matter for the Cabinet to sanction. By 
the middle of December it seemed to me certain that I should 
have to resign. The very foundations of naval policy were 
challenged, and the controversy was maintained by Ministerial 
critics specially acquainted with Admiralty business, versed 
in every detail of the problem and entitled to be exactly in- 
formed on every point. The Prime Minister, however, while 
appearing to remain impartial, so handled matters that no ac- 
tual breach occurred. On several occasions when it seemed 
that disagreement was total and final, he prevented a decision 
adverse to the Admiralty by terminating the discussion; and 
in the middle of December, when this process could go on no 
longer, he adjourned the whole matter till the middle of Janu- 

I wrote to him on December 18: — 

' Your letter is very kind, and I appreciate fully all the diffi- 
culties of the situation. But there is no chance whatever of 
my being able to go on, if the quota of capital ships for 1914-^ 
15 is reduced below four. Even the Daily News does not ex- 
pect that. I base myself on (1) my public declarations in 
Parliament; (2) the 60 per cent, standard (see Minute of the 
Sea Lords); (3) the Cabinet decision on the Mediterranean; 
and (4) my obligations towards Mr. Borden. You must in this 
last aspect consider broad effects. 

1 If on a general revirement of Naval Policy the Cabinet decide 
to reduce the quota, it would be indispensable that a new 
exponent should be chosen. I have no doubts at all about 
my duty. 

1 My loyalty to you, my conviction of your superior judgment 
and superior record on naval matters, prompt me to go all 
possible lengths to prevent disagreement in the Cabinet. But 
no reduction or postponement beyond the year of the four 
ships is possible to me. 

' I gathered that the final decision was to stand over till we 
reassemble in January. But there is no hope of any altera- 
tion in my view on this cardinal point, or of the view of my 
naval advisers.' 

To the First Sea Lord I wrote on December 26: — 

1 I could not in any circumstances remain responsible if the 
declared programme of four ships were cut down. But my 
responsibility is greater than anyone else's, and I hold my naval 
colleagues perfectly free to review the situation without re- 
gard to the action which I should take in the circumstances 
which may now be apprehended.' 

Prince Louis, however, assured me that he and the other 
Sea Lords would not remain in their appointments in the 
situation described. My two political colleagues, Dr. Mac- 
namara and Mr. Lambert, the Civil Lord, were both stalwart 
Radicals, but there was no doubt that they also would have 
declined responsibility. They had both been at the Ad- 


miralty for six or seven years, and their devotion to the inter- 
ests of the Navy and of the National Defence was unques- 
tionable. We thus all stood together. 

During the interval of' the Christmas holidays, which I 
spent in the south of France, I restated the Admiralty case 
in the light of all the discussions which had taken place. The 
closing passages of this Document may be reproduced. 

The General Situation 

No survey of British naval expenditure and no controversy 
arising out of it can be confined to our naval strength. It must 
also have regard to our military weakness compared to all 
the other European States that are building Navies. Even 
the modest establishments which Parliament has regarded as 
necessary have not been and are not being maintained. In 
1 9 13, when the five Great Powers of Europe have added over 
50 millions to their military expenditure, when every Power 
in the world is increasing the numbers and efficiency of its 
soldiers, our regular army has dropped by 6,200 men. The 
Special Reserve is 20,000 short, and the Territorials are 65,000 
short. Only the belief that the naval strength of the country 
is being effectively maintained prevents a widespread, and in 
important respects a well justified, alarm. If at any time we 
lose the confidence which the country has given to our naval 
administration in the last 5 years, the public attention cannot 
fail to be turned into channels which, apart from raising awk- 
ward questions, will lead directly to largely increased expendi- 

Our naval standards and the programmes which give effect 
to them must also be examined in relation not only to Germany 
but to the rest of the world. We must begin by recognising 
how different the part played by our Navy is from that of the 
Navies of every other country. Alone among the great mod- 
ern States we can neither defend the soil upon which we live 
nor subsist upon its produce. Our whole regular army is 
liable to be ordered abroad for the defence of India. The 
food of our people, the raw material of their industries, the 
commerce which constitutes our wealth, has to be protected 
as it traverses thousands of miles of sea and ocean from every 


quarter of the globe. Our necessary insistence upon the right 
of capture of private property at sea exposes British merchant 
ships to the danger of attack not only by enemy's warships 
but by converted armed-merchantmen. The burden of re- 
sponsibility laid upon the British Navy is heavy, and its weight 
increases year by year. 

All the world is building ships of the greatest power, train- 
ing officers and men, creating arsenals, and laying broad and 
deep the foundations of future permanent naval development 
and expansion. In every country powerful interests and huge 
industries are growing up which will render any check or cessa- 
tion in the growth of Navies increasingly difficult as time 
passes. Besides the Great Powers, there are many small 
States who are buying or building great ships of war and whose 
vessels may by purchase, by some diplomatic combination, or 
by duress, be brought into the line against us. None of these 
Powers need, like us, Navies to defend their actual safety or 
independence. They build them so as to play a part in the 
world's affairs. It is sport to them. It is death to us. 

These possibilities were described by Lord Crewe in the 
House of Lords last year. It is not suggested that the whole 
world will turn upon us, or that our preparations should con- 
template such a monstrous contingency. By a sober and 
modest conduct, by a skilful diplomacy we can in part disarm 
and in part divide the elements of potential danger. But two 
things must be remembered. First, that our diplomacy de- 
pends in a great part for its effectiveness upon our naval posi- 
tion, and that our naval strength is the one great balancing 
force which we can contribute to our own safety and to the 
peace of the world. Secondly, we are not a young people with 
a scanty inheritance. We have engrossed to ourselves, in 
times when other powerful nations were paralysed by barbar- 
ism or internal war, an immense share of the wealth and traffic 
of the world. We have got all we want in territory, and our 
claim to be left in the unmolested enjoyment of vast and 
splendid possessions, often seems less reasonable to others 
than to us. 

Further, we do not always play the humble role of passive 
unassertiveness. We have intervened regularly — as it was 
our duty to do, and as we could not help doing — in the affairs 
of Europe and of the world. We are now deeply involved in 


the European situation. We have responsibilities in many 
quarters. It is only two years ago that the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer went to the Mansion House and delivered a speech 
which to save Europe from war, brought us to the very verge 
of it. I have myself heard the Foreign Secretary say to my 
predecessor that he had received so stiff a communication from 
the German Ambassador, that the Fleet must be placed in a 
condition of readiness to be attacked at any moment. The 
impression which those events produced in my mind is inef- 
faceable. I saw that even a Liberal Government, whose first 
and most profound resolve must always be to preserve peace, 
might be compelled to face the gravest and most hateful possi- 
bilities. All Governments in England will not be Liberal 
Governments; all Foreign Secretaries will not have the suc- 
cess of Sir Edward Grey. We have passed through a year of 
continuous anxiety and, although I believe the foundations of 
peace among the Great Powers have been strengthened, the 
causes which might lead to a general war have not been re- 
moved and often remind us of their presence. There has not 
been the slightest abatement of naval and military preparation. 
On the contrary, we are witnessing this year increases of expen- 
diture by the Continental Powers beyond all previous experi- 
ence. The world is arming as it has never armed before. 
Every suggestion of arrest or limitation has been brushed aside. 
From time to time awkward things happen, and situations 
occur which make it necessary that the naval force at our im- 
mediate disposal, now in this quarter now in that, should be 
rapidly counted up. On such occasions the responsibilities 
which rest on the Admiralty come home with brutal reality to 
the Minister at its head, and unless our naval strength is 
solidly, amply and unswervingly maintained, with due and 
fair regard to the opinions of the professional advisers of the 
Government, I could not feel that I was doing my duty if I 
did not warn the country of its danger. 

The memorandum and the interval for reflection produced 
a certain change in the situation, and on my return to England 
in the middle of January, I was informed by several of my most 
important colleagues that they considered the Admiralty case 
on main essentials had been made good. The conflict, how- 
ever, renewed itself with the utmost vigour. We continued to 


pump out documents and arguments from the Admiralty in a 
ceaseless stream, dealing with each new point as it was chal- 
lenged. I telegraphed to Sir Robert Borden acquainting him 
with the crisis that was developing about the three ships to be 
accelerated in lieu of the Canadian Dreadnoughts, informing 
him of my intention to resign if unsuccessful, and invoking 
his aid by a full exposition of the Canadian point of view. 
This he most readily gave, setting forth in a masterly tele- 
gram the embarrassed position in which his Government would 
stand in their naval effort if no additional measure were taken 
by us to cover their interim default. 

Meanwhile, echoes of the controversy had found their way 
into the newspapers. As early as January 3, the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, in an interview with the Daily Chronicle, had 
deplored the folly of expenditure upon armaments, had 
pointedly referred to the resignation of Lord Randolph 
Churchill on the subject of economy, and had expressed the 
opinion that the state and prospects of the world were never 
more peaceful. The Liberal and Radical press were loud in 
their economy chorus, and a very strong movement against 
the Admiralty developed among our most influential sup- 
porters in the House of Commons. However, Parliament 
soon reassembled. The Irish question began to dominate 
attention. Eager partisans of the Home Rule cause were by 
no means anxious to see the Government weakened by the 
resignation of the entire Board of Admiralty. We were al- 
ready so hard pressed in the party struggle that the defection 
even of a single Minister might have produced a serious effect. 
No one expected me to pass away in sweet silence. The pros- 
pect of a formidable naval agitation added to the Irish tension 
was recognised as uninviting. In order to strengthen myself 
with my party, I mingled actively in the Irish controversy; 
and in this precarious situation the whole of February and 
part of March passed without any ground given or taken on 
either side. 


At last, th oiks to the unwearying patience of the Prime 
Minister, and to his solid, silent support, the Naval Estimates 
were accepted practically as they stood. In all these months 
of bickering we had only lost three small cruisers and twelve 
torpedo-boats for harbour defence. Estimates were presented 
to Parliament ior 5 y^ millions. We had not secured this 
victory withe* t being compelled to give certain general assur- 
ances with regard to the future. I agreed, under proper re- 
serves, to promise a substantial reduction on the Estimates 
of the following year. When the time came, I was not pressed 
to redeem this undertaking. 

The spring and summer of 19 14 were marked in Europe 
by an exceptional tranquillity. Ever since Agadir the policy 
of Germany towards Great Britain had not only been cor- 
rect but considerate. All through the tangle of the Balkan 
Conferences British and German diplomacy laboured in har- 
mony. The long distrust which had grown up in the Foreign 
Office, though not removed, was sensibly modified. Some at 
least of those who were accustomed to utter warnings began 
to feel the need of revising their judgment. The personalities 
who expressed the foreign policy of Germany seemed for the 
first time to be men to whom we could talk and with whom 
common action was possible. The peaceful solution of the 
Balkan difficulties afforded justification for the feeling of 
confidence. For months we had negotiated upon the most 
delicate questions on the brink of local rupture, and no rup- 
ture had come. There had been a score of opportunities had 
any Power wished to make war. Germany seemed, with us, to 
be set on peace. Although abroad the increase of armaments 
was proceeding with constant acceleration, although the 
fifty million capital tax had been levied in Germany, and that 
alarm bell was ringing for those that had ears to hear, a dis- 
tinct feeling of optimism passed over the mind of the British 


Government and the House of Commons. There seemed 
also to be a prospect that the personal goodwill and mutual 
respect which had grown up between the principal people on 
both sides might play a useful part in the future: and some 
there were who looked forward to a wider combination in 
which Great Britain and Germany, without prejudice to their 
respective friendships or alliances, might together bring the 
two opposing European systems into harmony and give to 
all the anxious nations solid assurances of safety and fair 

Naval rivalry had at the moment ceased to be a cause of 
friction. We were proceeding inflexibly for the third year 
in succession with our series of programmes according to scale 
and declaration. Germany had made no further increases 
since the beginning of 191 2. It was certain that we could 
not be overtaken as far as capital ships were concerned. I 
thought that the moment was opportune to renew by another 
method the conversations about a naval agreement if not a 
naval holiday which had been interrupted in 191 2. I there- 
fore suggested to the Foreign Secretary that I should meet 
Admiral von Tirpitz if a convenient opportunity presented 
itself, and I set out in the following minute some of the points 
which I thought might be discussed and which, though small, 
if agreed upon would make for easement and stability. 

Prime Minister. Ma ? 2 °' W* 

Sir Edward Grey. 

In Madrid at Easter, Sir Ernest Cassel told me that he had 
received from Herr Ballin a statement to this effect: 'How I 
wish that I could get Churchill here during the Kiel Week. 
Tirpitz will never allow the Chancellor to settle any naval 
questions, but I know he would like to have a talk with his 
English colleague on naval matters, and I am sure that if the 
subject of limiting naval armaments were ever approached in 
a businesslike way, some agreement would be reached/ On 
the same day I received a telegram from the Admiralty, say- 


ing that the Foreign Office particularly wished a British squad- 
ron to visit German ports simultaneously with other naval 
visits. Personally I should like to meet Tirpitz, and I think 
a non-committal, friendly conversation, if it arose naturally 
and freely, might do good, and could not possibly do any 
harm. Indeed, after all I have said about a Naval Holiday, 
it would be difficult for me to repulse any genuine desire on 
his part for such a conversation. The points I wish to discuss 
are these: — 

i st. My own Naval Holiday proposals and to show him, as 
I can easily do, the good faith and sound reasons on which they 
are based. I do not expect any agreement on these, but I 
would like to strip the subject of the misrepresentation and 
misunderstanding with which it has been surrounded, and put 
it on a clear basis in case circumstances should ever render 
it admissible. 

2nd. I wish to take up with him the suggestion which he 
made in his last speech on Naval Estimates of a limitation 
in the size of capital ships. Even if numbers could not be 
touched, a limitation in the size would be a great saving, and 
is on every ground to be desired. This subject could only 
be satisfactorily explored by direct personal discussion in the 
first instance. 

3rd. I wish to encourage him to send German ships to 
foreign stations by showing him how much we wish to do the 
same, and how readily we shall conform to any dispositions 
which have the effect of reducing the unwholesome concentra- 
tion of fleets in Home Waters. Quite apart from the diplo- 
matic aspect, it is bad for the discipline and organisation of 
both navies, and the Germans fully recognise this. 

4th. I wish to discuss the abandonment of secrecy in regard 
to the numbers and general characteristics (apart from special 
inventions) of the ships, built and building, in British and 
German dockyards. This policy of secrecy was instituted by 
the British Admiralty a few years ago with the worst results 
for us, for we have been much less successful in keeping our 
secrets than the Germans. I should propose to him in prin- 
ciple that we gave the Naval Attaches equal and reciprocal 
facilities to visit the dockyards and see what was going on 
just as they used to do in the past. If this could be agreed 
upon it would go a long way to stopping the espionage on 


both sides which is a continued cause of suspicion and ill- 

I hope, in view of the very strong feeling there is about 
naval expenditure and the great difficulties I have to face, 
my wish to put these points to Admiral von Tirpitz if a good 
opportunity arises, and if it is clear that he would not resent 
it, may not be dismissed. On the other hand, I do not wish 
to go to Germany for the purpose of initiating such a dis- 
cussion. I would rather go for some other reason satisfactory 
in itself, and let the discussion of these serious questions come 
about only if it is clearly appropriate. . . . 

For the present I suggest that nothing should be done 
until the Emperor's invitation arrives; and, secondly, until 
we hear what Tirpitz's real wish is. W S C 

Sir Edward Grey was apprehensive that more harm than 
good might result from such a discussion, and I do not my- 
self pronounce upon the point; but I am anxious to place 
the letter on record as a proof of my desire while maintain- 
ing our naval position to do all that could be done to mitigate 
asperity between the British and German Empires. 

The strange calm of the European situation contrasted 
with the rising fury of party conflict at home. The quarrel 
between Liberals and Conservatives had taken on much of 
that tense bitterness and hatred belonging to Irish affairs. 
As it became certain that the Home Rule Bill would pass 
into law under the machinery of the Parliament Act, the 
Protestant counties of Ulster openly developed their prepara- 
tions for armed resistance. In this they were supported and 
encouraged by the whole Conservative party. The Irish 
Nationalist leaders — Mr. Redmond, Mr. Dillon, Mr. Devlin 
and others — watched the increasing gravity of the situation 
in Ulster with apprehension. But there were elements be- 
hind them whose fierceness and whose violence were inde- 
scribable; and every step or gesture of moderation on the 


part of the Irish Parliamentary Party excited passionate an- 
ger. Between these difficulties Mr. Asquith's Government 
sought to thread their way. 

From the earliest discussions on the Home Rule Bill in 
1909 the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I had always ad- 
vocated the exclusion of Ulster on a basis of county option 
or some similar process. We had been met by the baffling 
argument that such a concession might well be made as the 
final means of securing a settlement, but would be fruit- 
less till then. The time had now arrived when the Home 
Rule issue had reached its supreme climax, and the Cabinet 
was generally agreed that we could not go farther without 
providing effectually for the exclusion of Ulster. In March, 
therefore, the Irish leaders were informed that the Govern- 
ment had so resolved. They resisted vehemently. They 
had it in their power at any time to turn out the Government, 
and they would have been powerfully reinforced from within 
the Liberal Party itself. There is no doubt that the Irish 
leaders feared, and even expected, that any weakening of the 
Bill would lead to its and their repudiation by the Irish people. 
Confronted, however, with the undoubted fact that the Gov- 
ernment would not shrink from being defeated and broken up 
on the point, they yielded. Amendments were framed which 
secured to any Ulster county the right to vote itself out of 
the Home Rule Bill until after two successive General Elec- 
tions had taken place in the United Kingdom. There could 
be no greater practical safeguard than this. It preserved 
the principle of Irish unity, but it made certain that unity 
could never be achieved except by the free consent of the 
Protestant North after seeing a Dublin Parliament actually 
on trial for a period of at least five years. 

These proposals were no sooner announced to Parliament 
than they were rejected with contumely by the Conservative 
opposition. We, however, embodied them in the text of the 
Bill and compelled the Irish Party to vote for their inclusion. 


We now felt that we could go forward with a clear conscience 
and enforce the law against all who challenged it. My own 
personal view had always been that I would never coerce 
Ulster to make her come under a Dublin Parliament, but I 
would do all that was necessary to prevent her stopping the 
rest of Ireland having the Parliament they desired. I be- 
lieve this was sound and right, and in support of it I was cer- 
tainly prepared to maintain the authority of Crown and Par- 
liament under the Constitution by whatever means were 
necessary. I spoke in this sense at Bradford on March 

It is greatly to be hoped that British political leaders will 
never again allow themselves to be goaded and spurred and 
driven by each other or by their followers into the excesses 
of partisanship which on both sides disgraced the year 19 14, 
and which were themselves only the culmination of that long 
succession of biddings and counter-biddings for mastery to 
which a previous chapter has alluded. No one who has not 
been involved in such contentions can understand the intensity 
of the pressures to which public men are subjected, or the way 
in which every motive in their nature, good, bad and indif- 
ferent, is marshalled in the direction of further effort to secure 
victory. The vehemence with which great masses of men 
yield themselves to partisanship and follow the struggle as if 
it were a prize fight, their ardent enthusiasm, their glistening 
eyes, their swift anger, their distrust and contempt if they 
think they are to be baulked of their prey; the sense of wrongs 
mutually interchanged, the extortion and enforcement of 
pledges, the infectious loyalties, the praise that waits on vio- 
lence, the chilling disdain, the honest disappointment, the 
cries of l treachery ' with which every proposal of compromise 
is hailed; the desire to keep good faith with those who follow, 
the sense of right being on one's side, the harsh unreasonable 
actions of opponents — all these acting and reacting recipro- 
cally upon one another tend towards the perilous climax. 


To fall behind is to be a laggard or a weakling, not sincere, 
not courageous; to get in front of the crowd, if only to com- 
mand them and to deflect them, prompts often very violent 
action. And at a certain stage it is hardly possible to keep 
the contention within the limits of words or laws. Force, 
that final arbiter, that last soberer, may break upon the scene. 

The preparations of the Ulster men continued. They de- 
clared their intention of setting up a provisional Government. 
They continued to develop and train their forces. They im- 
ported arms unlawfully and even by violence. It need 
scarcely be said that the same kind of symptoms began 
to manifest themselves among the Nationalists. Volunteers 
were enrolled by thousands, and efforts were made to procure 

As all this peril grew, the small military posts in the North 
of Ireland, particularly those containing stores of arms, be- 
came a source of preoccupation to the War Office. So also 
did the position of the troops in Belfast. The Orangemen 
would never have harmed the Royal forces. It was more than 
probable that the troops would fraternise with them. But the 
Government saw themselves confronted with a complete over- 
turn of their authority throughout North-East Ulster. In 
these circumstances, military and naval precautions were in- 
dispensable. On 14th March it was determined to protect 
the military stores at Carrickfergus and certain other places 
by small reinforcements, and as it was expected that the Great 
Northern Railway of Ireland would refuse to carry the troops, 
preparations were made to send them by sea. It was also 
decided to move a battle squadron and a flotilla from Arosa 
Bay, where they were cruising, to Lamlash whence they could 
rapidly reach Belfast. It was thought that the popularity and 
influence of the Royal Navy might produce a peaceable solu- 
tion, even if the Army had failed. Beyond this nothing was 
authorised, but the Military Commanders, seeing themselves 
confronted with what might well be the opening movements 


in a civil war, began to study plans of a much more serious 
character on what was the inherently improbable assumption 
that the British troops would be forcibly resisted and fired 
upon by the Orange army. 

These military measures, limited though they were, and 
the possible consequences that might follow them, produced 
the greatest distress among the officers of the Army, and when 
on 20th March the Commander-in-Chief in Ireland and other 
Generals made sensational appeals to gatherings of officers 
at the Curragh to discharge their constitutional duty in all 
circumstances, they encountered very general refusals. 

These shocking events caused an explosion of unparalleled 
fury in Parliament and shook the State to its foundations. 
The Conservatives accused the Government of having plotted 
the massacre of the loyalists of Ulster, in which design they 
had been frustrated only by the patriotism of the Army. The 
Liberals replied that the Opposition were seeking to subvert 
the Constitution by openly committing themselves to prepara- 
tions for rebellion, and had seduced not the Army but its of- 
ficers from their allegiance by propaganda. We cannot read 
the debates that continued at intervals through April, May 
and June, without wondering that our Parliamentary in- 
stitutions were strong enough to survive the passions by which 
they were convulsed. Was it astonishing that German agents 
reported and German statesmen believed that England was 
paralysed by faction and drifting into civil war, and need not 
be taken into account as a factor in the European situation ? 
How could they discern or measure the deep unspoken under- 
standings which lay far beneath the froth and foam and fury 
of the storm ? 

In all these scenes I played a prominent and a vehement 
part, but I never doubted for a moment the strength of the 
foundation on which we rested. I felt sure in my own mind 
that, now that the sting was out of the Home Rule Bill, noth- 
ing in the nature of civil war would arise. On the contrary 


I hoped for a settlement with the Conservative Party not 
only upon the Home Rule Bill with Ulster excluded, but also 
on other topics which ever since 1909 had been common 
ground between some of those who were disputing so angrily. 
I felt, however, that the Irish crisis must move forward to 
its climax, and that a reasonable settlement could only be 
reached in the recoil. 

On the 28th April I closed a partisan reply to a violent 
attack with the following direct appeal to Sir Edward Car- 
son: — 

1 1 adhere to my Bradford speech . . . but I will venture to 
ask the House once more at this moment in our differences 
and quarrels to consider whither it is we may find ourselves 
going. . . . Apart from the dangers which this controversy 
and this Debate clearly show exist at home, look at the conse- 
quences abroad. 

'Anxiety is caused in every friendly country by the belief 
that for the time being Great Britain cannot act. The high 
mission of this country is thought to be in abeyance, and the 
balance of Europe appears in many quarters for the time being 
to be deranged. Of course, foreign countries never really 
understand us in these islands. They do not know what we 
know, that at a touch of external difficulties or menace all 
these fierce internal controversies would disappear for the time 
being, and we should be brought into line and into tune. 
But why is it that men are so constituted that they can only 
lay aside their own domestic quarrels under the impulse of 
what I will call a higher principle of hatred ? . . . 

'Why cannot the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir 
Edward Carson) say boldly, "Give me the Amendments to 
this Home Rule Bill which I ask for, to safeguard the dignity 
and the interests of Protestant Ulster, and I in return will use 
all my influence and goodwill to make Ireland an integral unit 
in a federal system " ? ' 

These words gave the debate an entirely new turn. The 
Prime Minister said the next day, 'The First Lord's pro- 
posal was made on his own account, but I am heartily in 


sympathy with it.' Mr. Balfour declared that it had 'the 
promise and the potency of a settlement which would avoid 
this final and irreparable catastrophe of civil war.' Later, 
Sir Edward Carson, after laying stress on the gravity of the 
crisis and the weakening it entailed on the position of Great 
Britain abroad, declared that he would not quarrel with the 
matter or the manner of my proposal, and that 'he was not 
very far from the First Lord/ If Home Rule passed, his 
most earnest hope would be that it might be such a success 
that Ulster might come under it, and that mutual confi- 
dence and good will might arise in Ireland, rendering Ulster 
a stronger unit in the federal scheme. These potent indica- 
tions were not comprehended on the Continent. 

During the whole of May and June the party warfare pro- 
ceeded in its most strident form, but underneath the surface 
negotiations for a settlement between the two great parties 
were steadily persisted in. These eventuated on the 20th 
July in a summons by the King to the leaders of the Con- 
servative, Liberal and Irish parties to meet in conference at 
Buckingham Palace. When this conference was in its most 
critical stage I wrote the following letter to Sir Edward Grey : 
the wording is curious in view of the fact that I had then no 
idea of what the next forty-eight hours was to produce. On 
this I am content to rest so far as the Irish question before 
the war is concerned. 

Mr. Churchill to Sir Edward Grey 

July 22, 1914. 
. . . Failing an Irish agreement there ought to be a British 
decision. Carson and Redmond, whatever their wishes, may 
be unable to agree about Tyrone; they may think it worth 
a war; and from their point of view it may be worth a war. 
But that is hardly the position of the forty millions who dwell 
in Great Britain; and their interests must, when all is said and 
done, be our chief and final care. In foreign affairs you would 
proceed by two stages. First you would labour to stop Austria 


and Russia going to war; second, if that failed, you would try 
to prevent England, France, Germany and Italy being drawn 
in. Exactly what you would do in Europe, is right in this 
domestic danger, with the difference that in Europe the second 
step would only hope to limit and localise the conflict, whereas 
at home the second step — if practicable and adopted — would 
prevent the local conflict. 

The conference therefore should labour to reduce the differ- 
ence to the smallest definite limits possible. At that point, 
if no agreement had been reached, the Speaker should be 
asked to propose a partition ; and we should offer the Unionist 
leaders to accept it if they will. . . . 

I want peace by splitting the outstanding differences, if 
possible with Irish acquiescence, but if necessary over the 
heads of both Irish parties. 

At the end of June the simultaneous British naval visits 
to Kronstadt and Kiel took place. For the first time for sev- 
eral years some of the finest ships of the British and German 
Navies lay at their moorings at Kiel side by side surrounded 
by liners, yachts and pleasure craft of every kind. Undue 
curiosity in technical matters was banned by mutual agree- 
ment. There were races, there were banquets, there were 
speeches. There was sunshine, there was the Emperor. Of- 
ficers and men fraternised and entertained each other afloat 
and ashore. Together they strolled arm in arm through the 
hospitable town, or dined with all good will in mess and ward- 
room. Together they stood bareheaded at the funeral of a 
German officer killed in flying an English seaplane. 

In the midst of these festivities, on the 28th June, arrived 
the news of the murder of the Archduke Charles at Sarajevo. 
The Emperor was out sailing when he received it. He came 
on shore in noticeable agitation, and that same evening, 
cancelling his other arrangements, quitted Kiel. 

Like many others, I often summon up in my memory the 
impression of those July days. The world on the verge of 


its catastrophe was very brilliant. Nations and Empires 
crowned with princes and potentates rose majestically on 
every side, lapped in the accumulated treasures of the long 
peace. All were fitted and fastened — it seemed securely — 
into an immense cantilever. The two mighty European sys- 
tems faced each other glittering and clanking in their panoply, 
but with a tranquil gaze. A polite, discreet, pacific, and on 
the whole sincere diplomacy spread its web of connections 
over both. A sentence in a dispatch, an observation by an 
ambassador, a cryptic phrase in a Parliament seemed sufficient 
to adjust from day to day the balance of the prodigious struc- 
ture. Words counted, and even whispers. A nod could be 
made to tell. Were we after all to achieve world security and 
universal peace by a marvellous system of combinations in 
equipoise and of armaments in equation, of checks and coun- 
ter-checks on violent action ever more complex and more 
delicate ? Would Europe thus marshalled, thus grouped, thus 
related, unite into one universal and glorious organism capa- 
ble of receiving and enjoying in undreamed of abundance 
the bounty which nature and science stood hand in hand to 
give? The old world in its sunset was fair to see. 

But there was a strange temper in the air. Unsatisfied 
by material prosperity the nations turned restlessly towards '' 
strife internal or external. National passions, unduly ex- ' 
alted in the decline of religion, burned beneath the surface 
of nearly every land with fierce if shrouded fires. Almost one 
might think the world wished to suffer. Certainly men were 
everywhere eager to dare. On all sides the military prepara- 
tions, precautions and counter precautions had reached their 
height. France had her Three Years' military service; Rus- 
sia her growing strategic Railways. The Ancient Empire of 
the Hapsburgs, newly smitten by the bombs of Sarajevo, was 
a prey to intolerable racial stresses and profound processes 
of decay. Italy faced Turkey; Turkey confronted Greece;* 
Greece, Serbia and Roumania stood against Bulgaria. Britain 


was rent by faction and seemed almost negligible. America 
was three thousand miles away. Germany, her fifty million 
capital tax expended on munitions, her army increases com- 
pleted, the Kiel Canal open for Dreadnought battleships that 
very month, looked fixedly upon the scene and her gaze be- 
came suddenly a glare. 

In the autumn of 19 13, when I was revolving the next year's 
Admiralty policy in the light of the coming Estimates, I had 
sent the following minute to the First Sea Lord: — 

October 22, 1913. 
First Sea Lord. 

Second Sea Lord. 


We have now had manoeuvres in the North Sea on the 
largest scale for two years running, and we have obtained a 
great deal of valuable data which requires to be studied. It 
does not therefore seem necessary to supplement the ordinary 
tactical exercises of the year 1914-15 by Grand Manoeuvres. 
A saving of nearly £200,000 could apparently be effected in 
coal and oil consumption, and a certain measure of relief would 
be accorded to the Estimates in an exceptionally heavy year. 

In these circumstances I am drawn to the conclusion that 
it would be better to have no Grand Manoeuvres in 19 14-15, 
but to substitute instead a mobilisation of the Third Fleet. 
The whole of the Royal Fleet Reserve, and the whole of the 
Reserve officers could be mobilised and trained together for 
a week or ten days. The Third Fleet ships would be given 
the exact complements they would have in war, and the whole 
mobilisation system would be subjected to a real test. The 
balance Fleet Reservists could be carefully tested as to quality, 
and trained either afloat or ashore. I should anticipate that 
this would not cost more than £100,000, in which case there 
would still be a saving on the fuel of the manoeuvres. While 
the Third Fleet ships were mobilised the First Fleet ships 
would rest, and thus plenty of officers would be available for 
the training of the reservists on shore, and possibly, if need be, 
for their peace training afloat. This last would, of course, 


reveal what shortage exists. A very large staff would be em- 
ployed at all the mobilising centres to report upon the whole 
workings of the mobilisation. The schools and training estab- 
lishments would be closed temporarily according to the mobili- 
sation orders, and the whole process of putting the Navy on a 
war footing, so far as the Third Fleet was concerned, would 
be carried out. I should not propose to complete the Second 
Fleet, as we know all about that. 

At another time in the year I should desire to see mobilised 
the whole of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and put 
them afloat on First Fleet ships for a week as additional to 

Please put forward definite proposals, with estimates, for 
carrying out the above policy, and at the same time let me 
have your opinion upon it. 

Prince Louis agreed. The necessary measures were 1 taken 
and the project was mentioned to Parliament on the 18th 
March, 19 14. In pursuance of these orders and without con- 
nection of any kind with the European situation, the Test 
Mobilisation began on the 15th July. Although there was no 
legal authority to compel the reservists to come up, the re- 
sponse was general, upwards of 20,000 men presenting them- 
selves at the naval depots. The whole of our mobilisation 
arrangements were thus subjected for the first time in naval 
history to a practical test and thorough overhaul. Officers 
specially detached from the Admiralty watched the process of 
mobilisation at every port in order that every defect, shortage 
or hitch in the system might be reported and remedied. Prince 
Louis and I personally inspected the process at Chatham. All 
the reservists drew their kits and proceeded to their assigned 
ships. All the Third Fleet ships coaled and raised steam and 
sailed for the general concentration at Spithead. Here on 
the 17 th and 18 th of July was held the grand review of the 
Navy. It constituted incomparably the greatest assemblage 
of naval power ever witnessed in the history of the world. 
The King himself was present and inspected ships of every 


class. On the morning of the 19th the whole Fleet put to sea 
for exercises of various kinds. It took more than six hours 
for this armada, every ship decked with flags and crowded 
with bluejackets and marines, to pass, with bands playing 
and at 15 knots, before the Royal Yacht, while overhead 
the naval seaplanes and aeroplanes circled continuously. Yet 
it is probable that the uppermost thought in the minds both 
of the Sovereign and those of his Ministers there present was 
not the imposing spectacle of British majesty and might de- 
filing before their eyes, not the oppressive and even sultry at- 
mosphere of continental politics, but the haggard, squalid, 
tragic Irish quarrel which threatened to divide the British 
nation into two hostile camps. 

One after another the ships melted out of sight beyond the 
Nab. They were going on a longer voyage than any of us 
could know. 


July 24— July 30 

Prepare, prepare the iron helm of war, 
Bring forth the lots, cast in the spacious orb; 
The Angel of Fate turns them with mighty hands, 
And casts them out upon the darkened earth ! 

Prepare, prepare! [Blake.] 

Cabinet of Friday, July 24 — Fermanagh and Tyrone — The Austrian 
Ultimatum to Serbia — Seventeen Points to remember — The Naval 
Position — The Mission of Herr Ballin — Sunday, July 26 — The 
Fleet held together — The Admiralty Communique — The Cabinet 
and the Crisis — The Policy of Sir Edward Grey: Cardinal Points 
— Belgium and France — Was there an Alternative? — Justice to 
France — Naval Preparations of July 27 and 28 — The Precaution- 
ary Period — The Turkish Battleships — What the German Ad- 
miralty knew — German Agents — The Decisive Step — Passage of 
the Straits of Dover by the Fleet, July 30 — The Fleet in its War 
Station — The King's Ships at Sea. 

THE Cabinet on Friday afternoon sat long revolving the 
Irish problem. The Buckingham Palace Conference 
had broken down. The disagreements and antagonisms 
seemed as fierce and as hopeless as ever, yet the margin in dis- 
pute, upon which such fateful issues hung, was inconceivably 
petty. The discussion turned principally upon the boundaries 
of Fermanagh and Tyrone. To this pass had the Irish fac- 
tions in their insensate warfare been able to drive their re- 
spective British champions. Upon the disposition of these 
clusters of humble parishes turned at that moment the polit- 
ical future of Great Britain. The North would not agree to 
this, and the South would not agree to that. Both the leaders 
wished to settle; both had dragged their followers forward 
to the utmost point they dared. Neither seemed able to 



give an inch. Meanwhile, the settlement of Ireland must 
carry with it an immediate and decisive abatement of party 
strife in Britain, and those schemes of unity and co-operation 
which had so intensely appealed to the leading men on both 
sides, ever since Mr. Lloyd George had mooted them in 
1 910, must necessarily have come forward into the light of 
day. Failure to settle on the other hand meant something 
very like civil war and the plunge into depths of which no 
one could make any measure. And so, turning this way and 
that in search of an exit from the deadlock, the Cabinet toiled 
around the muddy byways of Fermanagh and Tyrone. One 
had hoped that the events of April at the Curragh and in 
Belfast would have shocked British public opinion, and 
formed a unity sufficient to impose a settlement on the Irish 
factions. Apparently they had been insufficient. Apparently 
the conflict would be carried one stage further by both sides 
with incalculable consequences before there would be a re- 
coil. Since the days of the Blues and the Greens in the By- 
zantine Empire, partisanship had rarely been carried to more 
absurd extremes. An all-sufficient shock was, however, at 

The discussion had reached its inconclusive end, and the 
Cabinet was about to separate, when the quiet grave tones 
of Sir Edward Grey's voice were heard reading a document 
which had just been brought to him from the Foreign Office. 
It was the Austrian note to Serbia. He had been reading 
or speaking for several minutes before I could disengage my 
mind from the tedious and bewildering debate which had 
just closed. We were all very tired, but gradually as the 
phrases and sentences followed one another impressions of 
a wholly different character began to form in my mind. This 
note was clearly an ultimatum; but it was an ultimatum such 
as had never been penned in modern times. As the reading 
proceeded it seemed absolutely impossible that any State in 
the world could accept it, or that any acceptance, however 


abject, would satisfy the aggressor. The parishes of Fer- 
managh and Tyrone faded back into the mists and squalls of 
Ireland, and a strange light began immediately, but by per- 
ceptible gradations, to fall and grow upon the map of Europe. 

I always take the greatest interest in reading accounts of 
how the war came upon different people; where they were, 
and what they were doing, when the first impression broke on 
their mind, and they first began to feel this overwhelming 
event laying its fingers on their lives. I never tire of the 
smallest detail, and I believe that so long as they are true 
and unstudied they will have a definite value and an endur- 
ing interest for posterity; so I shall briefly record exactly what 
happened to me. 

I went back to the Admiralty at about 6 o'clock. I said 
to my friends who have helped me so many years in my work 1 
that there was real danger and that it might be war. 

I took stock of the position, and wrote out to focus them 
in my mind a series of points which would have to be attended 
to if matters did not mend. My friends kept these as a check 
during the days that followed and ticked them off one by one 
as they were settled. 

1. First and Second Fleets. Leave and disposition. 

2. Third Fleet. Replenish coal and stores. 

3. Mediterranean movements. 

4. China dispositions.^ 

5. Shadowing cruisers abroad. 

6. Ammunition for self -defensive merchantmen. 

7. Patrol Flotillas. Disposition. 



35 ex-Coastals. 

8. Immediate Reserve. 

9. Old Battleships for Humber. Flotilla for Humber. 
10. Ships at emergency dates. 

Ships-building for Foreign Powers. 

1 Mr. Marsh and Mr. (now Sir James) Masterton Smith. 


ii. Coastal Watch. 

12. Anti-aircraft guns at Oil Depots. 

13. Aircraft to Sheerness. Airships and Seaplanes. 

14. K. Espionage. 

15. Magazines and other vulnerable points. 

16. Irish ships. 

17. Submarine dispositions. 

I discussed the situation at length the next morning (Satur- 
day) with the First Sea Lord. For the moment, however, 
there was nothing to do. At no time in all these last three 
years were we more completely ready. 

The test mobilisation had been completed, and with the 
exception of the Immediate Reserve, all the reservists were 
already paid off and journeying to their homes. But the 
whole of the 1st and 2nd Fleets were complete in every way 
for battle and were concentrated at Portland, where they 
were to remain till Monday morning at 7 o'clock, when 
the 1st Fleet would disperse by squadrons for various exer- 
cises and when the ships of the 2nd Fleet would proceed to 
their Home Ports to discharge their balance crews. Up till 
Monday morning therefore, a word instantaneously trans- 
mitted from the wireless masts of the Admiralty to the Iron 
Duke would suffice to keep our main force together. If the 
word were not spoken before that hour, they would begin to 
separate. During the first twenty-four hours after their sepa- 
ration they could be reconcentrated in an equal period; but 
if no word were spoken for forty-eight hours (i.e. by Wednes- 
day morning), then the ships of the 2nd Fleet would have 
begun dismissing their balance crews to the shore at Ports- 
mouth, Plymouth and Chatham, and the various gunnery 
and torpedo schools would have recommenced their instruc- 
tion. If another forty-eight hours had gone before the word 
was spoken, i.e. by Friday morning, a certain number of 
vessels would have gone into dock for refit, repairs or laying 
up. Thus on this Saturday morning we had the Fleet in hand 
for at least four days. 


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The night before (Friday), at dinner, I had met Herr Ballin. 
He had just arrived from Germany. We sat next to each other, 
and I asked him what he thought about the situation. With 
the first few words he spoke, it became clear that he had not 
come here on any mission of pleasure. He said the situation 
was grave. 'I remember/ he said, 'old Bismarck telling me 
1 the year before he died that one day the great European War 
would come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans/ 
These words, he said, might come true. It all depended 
on the Tsar. What would he do if Austria chastised Serbia ? 
A few years before there would have been no danger, as the 
Tsar was too frightened for his throne, but now again he was 
feeling himself more secure upon his throne, and the Russian 
people besides would feel very hardly anything done against 
Serbia. Then he said, 'If Russia marches against Austria, 
we must march; and if we march, France must march, and 
what would England do?' I was not in a position to say 
more than that it would be a great mistake to assume that 
England would necessarily do nothing, and I added that she 
would judge events as they arose. He replied, speaking with 
very great earnestness, 'Suppose we had to go to war with 
Russia and France, and suppose we defeated France and yet 
took nothing from her in Europe, not an inch of her territory, 
only some colonies to indemnify us. Would that make a 
difference to England's attitude ? Suppose we gave a guaran- 
tee beforehand/ I stuck to my formula that England would 
judge events as they arose, and that it would be a mistake to 
assume that we should stand out of it whatever happened. 

I reported this conversation to Sir Edward Grey in due 
course, and early in the following week I repeated it to the 
Cabinet. On the Wednesday following the exact proposal 
mooted to me by Herr Ballin, about Germany not taking any 
territorial conquests in France but seeking indemnities only 
in the colonies, was officially telegraphed to us from Berlin 
and immediately rejected. I have no doubt that Herr Ballin 


was directly charged by the Emperor with the mission to find 
out what England would do. 

Herr Ballin has left on record his impression of his visit 
to England at this juncture. 'Even a moderately skilled Ger- 
man diplomatist/ he wrote, l could easily have come to an 
understanding with England and France, who could have 
made peace certain and prevented Russia from beginning 
war/ The editor of his memoirs adds: 'The people in Lon- 
don were certainly seriously concerned at the Austrian Note, 
but the extent to which the Cabinet desired the maintenance 
of peace may be seen (as an example) from the remark which 
Churchill, almost with tears in his eyes, made to Ballin as they 
parted: "My dear friend, don't let us go to war." ' 

I had planned to spend the Sunday with my family at 
Cromer, and I decided not to alter my plans. I arranged to 
have a special operator placed in the telegraph office so as to 
ensure a continuous night and day service. On Saturday 
afternoon the news came in that Serbia had accepted the 
ultimatum. I went to bed with a feeling things might 
blow over. We had had, as this account has shown, so many 
scares before. Time after time the clouds had loomed up 
vague, menacing, constantly changing; time after time they 
had dispersed. We were still a long way, as it seemed, from 
any danger of war. Serbia had accepted the ultimatum, 
could Austria demand more ? And if war came, could it not 
be confined to the East of Europe? Could not France and 
Germany, for instance, stand aside and leave Russia and 
Austria to settle their quarrel? And then, one step further 
removed, was our own case. Clearly there would be a chance 
of a conference, there would be time for Sir Edward Grey to 
get to work with conciliatory processes such as had proved so 
effective in the Balkan difficulties the year before. Anyhow, 
whatever happened, the British Navy had never been in a 
better condition or in greater strength. Probably the call 
would not come, but if it did, it could not come in a better 


hour. Reassured by these reflections I slept peacefully, and 
no summons disturbed the silence of the night. 

At 9 o'clock the next morning I called up the First Sea 
Lord by telephone. He told me that there was a rumour 
that Austria was not satisfied with the Serbian acceptance 
of the ultimatum, but otherwise there were no new develop- 
ments. I asked him to call me up again at twelve. I went 
down to the beach and played with the children. We dammed 
the little rivulets which trickled down to the sea as the tide 
went out. It was a very beautiful day. The North Sea shone 
and sparkled to a far horizon. What was there beyond that 
line where sea and sky melted into one another ? All along 
the East Coast, from Cromarty to Dover, in their various 
sally-ports, lay our patrol flotillas of destroyers and submarines. 
In the Channel behind the torpedo proof moles of Portland 
Harbour waited all the great ships of the British Navy. Away 
to the north-east, across the sea that stretched before me, the 
German High Sea Fleet, squadron by squadron, was cruising 
off the Norwegian coast. 

At 12 o'clock I spoke to the First Sea Lord again. He told 
me various items of news that had come in from different 
capitals, none however of decisive importance, but all tend- 
ing to a rise of temperature. I asked him whether all the 
reservists had already been dismissed. He told me they had. 
I decided to return to London. I told him I would be with 
him at nine, and that meanwhile he should do whatever was 

Prince Louis awaited me at the Admiralty. The situation 
was evidently degenerating. Special editions of the Sunday 
papers showed intense excitement in nearly every European 
capital. The First Sea Lord told me that in accordance 
with our conversation he had told the Fleet not to dis- 
perse. I took occasion to refer to this four months later in 
my letter accepting his resignation. I was very glad publicly 
to testify at that moment of great grief and pain for him that 


his loyal hand had sent the first order which began our vast 
naval mobilisation. 

I then went round to Sir Edward Grey, who had rented 
my house at 33, Eccleston Square. No one was with him 
except Sir William Tyrrell of the Foreign Office. I told him 
that we were holding the Fleet together. I learned from him 
that he viewed the situation very gravely. He said there 
was a great deal yet to be done before a really dangerous crisis 
was reached, but that he did not at all like the way in which 
this business had begun. I asked whether it would be help- 
ful or the reverse if we stated in public that we were keeping 
the Fleet together. Both he and Tyrrell were most insistent 
that we should proclaim it at the earliest possible moment: 
it might have the effect of sobering the Central Powers and 
steadying Europe. I went back to the Admiralty, sent for 
the First Sea Lord, and drafted the necessary communique. 

The next morning the following notice appeared in all the 
papers: — 



We received the following statement from the Secretary 
of the Admiralty at an early hour this morning : — 

Orders have been given to the First Fleet, which is con- 
centrated at Portland, not to disperse for manoeuvre leave for 
the present. All vessels of the Second Fleet are remaining at 
their home ports in proximity to their balance crews. 

On Monday began the first of the Cabinets on the European 
situation, which thereafter continued daily or twice a day. 
It is to be hoped that sooner or later a detailed account of the 
movement of opinion in the Cabinet during this period will 
be compiled and given to the world. There is certainly no 
reason for anyone to be ashamed of honest and sincere coun- 
sel given either to preserve peace or to enter upon a just and 


necessary war. Meanwhile it is only possible, without breach 
of constitutional propriety, to deal in the most general terms 
with what took place. 

The Cabinet was overwhelmingly pacific. At least three- 
quarters of its members were determined not to be drawn 
into a European quarrel, unless Great Britain were herself 
attacked, which was not likely. Those who were in this mood 
were inclined to believe first of all tjiat Austria and Serbia 
would not come to blows; secondly, that if they did, Russia 
would not intervene; thirdly, if Russia intervened, that Ger- 
many would not strike; fourthly, they hoped that if Germany 
struck at Russia, it ought to be possible for France and Ger- 
many mutually to neutralise each other without righting. 
They did not believe that if Germany attacked France, she 
would attack her through Belgium or that if she did the Bel- 
gians would forcibly resist; and it must be remembered, that 
during the whole course of this week Belgium not only never 
asked for assistance from the guaranteeing Powers but point- 
edly indicated that she wished to be left alone. So here were 
six or seven positions, all of which could be wrangled over and 
about none of which any final proof could be offered except 
the proof of events. It was not until Monday, August 3, that 
the direct appeal from the King of the Belgians for French and 
Brirish aid raised an issue which united the overwhelming 
majority of Ministers and enabled Sir Edward Grey to make 
his speech on that afternoon to the House of Commons. 

My own part in these events was a very simple one. It 
was first of all to make sure that the diplomatic situation 
did not get-ahead of the naval situation, and that the Grand 
Fleet should be in its War Station before Germany could know 
whether or not we should be in the war, and therefore if possible 
before we had decided ourselves. Secondly, it was to point out 
that if Germany attacked France, she would do so through 
Belgium, that all her preparations had been made to this end, 
and that she neither could nor would adopt any different 


strategy or go round any other way. To these two tasks I 
steadfastly adhered. 

Every day there were long Cabinets from eleven onwards. 
Streams of telegrams poured in from every capital in Europe. 
Sir Edward Grey was plunged in his immense double struggle 
(a) to prevent war and (b) not to desert France should it come. 
I watched with admiration his activities at the Foreign Office 
and cool skill in council. Both these tasks acted and re- 
acted on one another from hour to hour. He had to try to 
make the Germans realise that we were to be reckoned with, 
without making the French or Russians feel they had us in 
their pockets. He had to carry the Cabinet with him in all 
he did. During the many years we acted together in the 
Cabinet, and the earlier years in which I read his Foreign 
Office telegrams, I thought I had learnt to understand his 
methods of discussion and controversy, and perhaps without 
offence I might describe them. 

After what must have been profound reflection and study, 
the Foreign Secretary was accustomed to select one or two 
points in any important controversy which he defended with 
all his resources and tenacity. They were his fortified vil- 
lages. All around in the open field the battle ebbed and 
flowed, but if at nightfall these points were still in his pos- 
session, his battle was won. All other arguments had ex- 
pended themselves, and these key positions alone survived. 
The points which he selected over and over again proved to 
be inexpugnable. They were particularly adapted to de- 
fence. They commended themselves to sensible and fair- 
minded men. The sentiments of the patriotic Whig, the 
English gentleman, the public school boy all came into the 
line for their defence, and if they were held, the whole front 
was held, including much debatable ground. 

As soon as the crisis had begun he had fastened upon the 
plan of a European conference, and to this end every con- 
ceivable endeavour was made by him. To get the great 


Powers together round a table, in any capital that was agree- 
able with Britain there to struggle for peace, and if necessary 
to threaten war against those who broke it, was his plan. Had 
such a conference taken place, there could have been no war. 
Mere acceptance of the principle of a conference by the Cen- 
tral Powers would have instantly relieved the tension. A 
will to peace at Berlin and Vienna would have found no dif- 
ficulties in escaping from the terrible net which was drawing 
in upon us all hour by hour. But underneath the diplomatic 
communications and manoeuvres, the baffling proposals and 
counter-proposals, the agitated interventions of Tsar and 
Kaiser, flowed a deep tide of calculated military purpose. 
As the ill-fated nations approached the verge, the sinister ma- 
chines of war began to develop their own momentum and 
even to take control themselves. 

The Foreign Secretary's second cardinal point was the Eng- 
lish Channel. Whatever happened, if war came, we could not 
allow the German Fleet to come down the Channel to attack 
the French ports. Such a situation would be insupportable 
for Great Britain. Every one who counted was agreed on 
that from a very early stage in our discussions. But in ad- 
dition we were, in a sense, morally committed to France to 
that extent. No bargain had been entered into. All ar- 
rangements that had been concerted were, as has been ex- 
plained, specifically preluded with a declaration that neither 
party was committed to anything further than consultation 
together if danger threatened. But still the fact remained 
that the whole French Fleet was in the Mediterranean. Only 
a few cruisers and flotillas remained to guard the Northern 
and Atlantic Coasts of France; and simultaneously with that 
redisposition of forces, though not contingent upon it or de- 
pendent upon it, we had concentrated all our battleships at 
home, and only cruisers and battle-cruisers maintained British 
interests in the Mediterranean. The French had taken their 
decision on their own responsibility without prompting from 


us, and we had profited by their action to strengthen our mar- 
gin in the Line of Battle at home. Whatever disclaimers we 
had made about not being committed, could we, when it came 
to the point, honourably stand by and see the naked French 
coasts ravaged and bombarded by German Dreadnoughts un- 
der the eyes and within gunshot of our Main Fleet ? 

It seemed to me, however, very early in the discussion that 
the Germans would concede this point to keep us out of the 
war, at any rate till the first battles on land had been fought 
without us; and sure enough they did. Believing as I did 
and do that we could not, for our own safety and indepen- 
dence, allow France to be crushed as the result of aggressive 
action by Germany, I always from the very earliest moment 
concentrated upon our obligations to Belgium, through which 
I was convinced the Germans must inevitably march to in- 
vade France. Belgium did not bulk very largely in my senti- 
ments at this stage. I thought it very unlikely that she 
would resist. I thought, and Lord Kitchener, who lunched 
with me on the Tuesday (28th), agreed, that Belgium would 
make some formal protest and submit. A few shots might 
be fired outside Liege or Namur, and then this unfortunate 
State would bow its head before overwhelming might. Per- 
haps, even, there was a secret agreement allowing free pas- 
sage to the Germans through Belgium. How otherwise would 
all these preparations of Germany, the great camps along the 
Belgian Frontier, the miles and miles of sidings, the intricate 
network of railways have been developed? Was it possible 
that German thoroughness could be astray on so important a 
factor as the attitude of Belgium? 

Those wonderful events which took place in Belgium on 
Sunday and Monday and in the week that followed could 
not be foreseen by us. I saw in Belgium a country with 
whom we had had many differences over the Congo and other 
subjects. I had not discerned in the Belgium of the late 
King Leopold the heroic nation of King Albert. But what- 


ever happened to Belgium, there was France whose very life 
was at stake, whose armies in my judgment were definitely 
weaker than those by whom they would be assailed, whose 
ruin would leave us face to face alone with triumphant Ger- 
many: France, then schooled by adversity to peace and cau- 
tion, thoroughly democratic, already stripped of two fair 
provinces, about to receive the final smashing blow from 
overwhelming brutal force. Only Britain could redress the 
balance, could defend the fair play of the world. Whatever 
else failed, we must be there, and we must be there in time. 
A week later every British heart burned for little Belgium. 
From every cottage labouring men, untrained to war but 
with the blood of an unconquered people in their veins, were 
hurrying to the recruiting stations with intent to rescue 
Belgium. But at this time it was not Belgium one thought 
of, but France. Still, Belgium and the Treaties were indis- 
putably an obligation of honour binding upon the British 
State such as British Governments have always accepted; 
and it was on that ground that I personally, with others, took 
my stand. 

I will now examine the alternative question of whether 
more decided action by Sir Edward Grey at an early stage 
would have prevented the war. We must first ask, At what 
early stage ? Suppose after Agadir or on the announcement of 
the new German Navy Law in 191 2 the Foreign Secretary had, 
m cold blood, proposed a formal alliance with France and Rus- 
sia, and in execution of military conventions consequential 
upon the alliance had begun to raise by compulsion an army 
adequate to our responsibilities and to the part we were play- 
ing in the world's affairs; and suppose we had taken this ac- 
tion as a united nation ; who shall say whether that would have 
prevented or precipitated the war? But what chance was 
there of such action being unitedly taken ? The Cabinet of the 
day would never have agreed to it. I doubt if four Ministers 
would have agreed to it. But if the Cabinet had been united 


upon it, the House of Commons would not have accepted their 
guidance. Therefore the Foreign Minister would have had to 
resign. The policy which he had advocated would have stood 
condemned and perhaps violently repudiated; and with that 
repudiation would have come an absolute veto upon all those 
informal preparations and non-committal discussions on 
which the defensive power of the Triple Entente was erected. 
Therefore, by taking such a course in 191 2 Sir Edward Grey 
would only have paralysed Britain, isolated France and in- 
creased the preponderant and growing power of Germany. 

Suppose again that now after the Austrian ultimatum to 
Serbia, the Foreign Secretary had proposed to the Cabinet 
that if matters were so handled that Germany attacked France 
or violated Belgian territory, Great Britain would declare 
war upon her. Would the Cabinet have assented to such a 
communication? I cannot believe it. If Sir Edward Grey 
could have said on Monday that if Germany attacked France 
or Belgium, England would declare war upon her, might 
there not still have been time to ward off the catastrophe? 
The question is certainly arguable. But the knowledge which 
we now have of events in Berlin tends to show that even then 
the German Government were too deeply committed by their 
previous action. They had before their eyes the deliberate 
British announcement that the Fleet was being held together. 
That at least was a serious if silent warning. Under its im- 
pression the German Emperor, as soon as he returned to 
Berlin, made on this same Monday and succeeding days 
strong efforts to bring Austria to reason and so to prevent 
war. But he could never overtake events or withstand the 
contagion of ideas. However this may be, I am certain that 
if Sir Edward Grey had sent the kind of ultimatum suggested, 
the Cabinet would have broken up, and it is also my belief 
that up till Wednesday or Thursday at least, the House of 
Commons would have repudiated his action. Nothing less 
than the deeds of Germany would have converted the British 


nation to war. To act in advance of those deeds would have 
led to an exposure of division worse than the guarded atti- 
tude which we maintained, which brought our country into 
the war united. After Wednesday or Thursday it was too 
late. By the time we could speak decisive words of warning, 
the hour of words had certainly passed for ever. 

It is true to say that our Entente with France and the 
military and naval conversations that had taken place since 
1906, had led us into a position where we had the obligations 
of an alliance without its advantages. An open alliance, if it 
could have been peacefully brought about at an earlier date, 
would have exercised a deterring effect upon the German 
mind, or at the least would have altered their military cal- 
culations. Whereas now we were morally bound to come to 
the aid of France and it was our interest to do so, and yet the 
fact that we should come in appeared so uncertain that it 
did not weigh as it should have done with the Germans. 
Moreover, as things were, if France had been in an aggressive 
mood, we should not have had the unquestioned right of an 
ally to influence her action in a pacific sense: and if as the re- 
sult of her aggressive mood war had broken out and we had 
stood aside, we should have been accused of deserting her, 
and in any case would have been ourselves grievously en- 
dangered by her defeat. 

However, in the event there was no need to moderate the 
French attitude. Justice to France requires the explicit 
statement that the conduct of her Government at this awful 
juncture was faultless. She assented instantly to every pro- 
posal that could make for peace. She abstained from every 
form of provocative action. She even compromised her own 
safety, holding back her covering troops at a considerable 
distance behind her frontier, and delaying her mobilisation in 
the face of continually gathering German forces till the latest 
moment. Not until she was confronted with the direct de- 
mand of Germany to break her Treaty and abandon Russia, 


did France take up the challenge; and even had she acceded 
to the German demand, she would only, as we now know, 
have been faced with a further ultimatum to surrender to 
German military occupation as a guarantee for her neutral- 
ity the fortresses of Toul and Verdun. There never was any 
chance of France being allowed to escape the ordeal. Even 
cowardice and dishonour would not have saved her. The 
Germans had resolved that if war came from any cause, they 
would take and break France forthwith as its first operation. 
The German military chiefs burned to give the signal, and 
were sure of the result. She would have begged for mercy in 

She did not beg. 

The more I reflect upon this situation, the more convinced 
I am that we took the only practical course that was open to 
us or to any British Cabinet; and that the objections which 
may be urged against it were less than those which would 
have attended any other sequence of action. 

After hearing the discussions at Monday's Cabinet and 
studying the telegrams, I sent that night to all our Com- 
manders-in-Chief the following very secret warning: — 

July 27, 1914. 

This is not the Warning Telegram, but European political 
situation makes war between Triple Entente and Triple Al- 
liance Powers by no means impossible. Be prepared to 
shadow possible hostile men of war and consider dispositions 
of H.M. ships under your command from this point of view. 
Measure is purely precautionary. No unnecessary person is 
to be informed. The utmost secrecy is to be observed. 

On Tuesday morning I sent the following minute to the First 
Sea Lord, to which he replied marginally the same day: — 



July 28, 1914. 

1. It would appear that the minesweepers ww go North with Fleet. 
should be quietly collected at some suitable 

point for attendance on the Battle Fleet, 
should it move. 

2. Let me have a short statement on the Done - 
coal position and what measures you propose. 

3. I presume Firedrake and Lurcher will Yes. 
now join their proper flotilla. 

4. All the Vessels engaged On the COast Of Have been ordered away. 

Ireland should be considered as available on 
mobilisation, and on receipt of the warning 
telegram should move to their war stations 
without the slightest delay. 

5. It would certainly be desirable that wni be done as soon as f.o. concur 
Triumph should be quietly mobilised and 

that she should be ready to close the China 
flagship with available destroyers. The posi- 
tion of the German heavy cruisers in China 
waters makes it clear that this can be done. 
Please examine and report what disadvan- 
tages this mobilisation would entail. We can 
then discuss whether it is worth while taking 
them in the present circumstances. The 
China Squadron must be capable of concen- 
trating as soon as the warning telegram is 
sent and before a main action is necessary. 
Without the Triumph the margin of superior- 
ity is small and any reinforcement from other 
stations would be slow. 

6. You should consider whether the posi- 
tion of the Goeben 1 at Pola does not justify 
the detachment of the New Zealand to join 
the Mediterranean flag. 

7. Yesterday, after consultation with the 
Prime Minister, I arranged personally with 
the Chief of the Imperial General Staff for 
the better guarding of magazines and oil tanks 

Should concentrate at Hong Kong 
at once. 

Decided "No" at Conference. 

Settled personally 

with O. of 

1 1 have inconsistently adopted the familiar spelling of this ship's 
name instead of Goben. 



against evilly-disposed persons and attacks 
by aircraft. These measures have now been 
taken. See attached letter from the Chief of 
the Imperial General Staff and my reply. 
You should direct the Director of Operations 
Division to obtain full detailed information 
from the War Office of what has been done, 
and in the event of any place being overlooked, 
to make the necessary representations. 

8. Director of the Air Division should be 
asked to report the exact positions of the air- 
craft which were concentrated yesterday in 
the neighbourhood of the Thames Estuary, 
and further to state what is being done to 
reach a complete understanding between the 
l. b. aircraft and the military authorities in charge 

of the aerial gun defences at various points. 
This is of the utmost importance if accidents 

are to be avoided. „ 7 c ^ 

W. b. C 

The official ' warning telegram' was despatched from 
the Admiralty on Wednesday, the 29th. On this same day 
I obtained from the Cabinet the authority to put into 
force the ' Precautionary Period' regulations. The work 
of Ottley and of Hankey and generally of the Committee 
of Imperial Defence, was now put to the proof. It was 
found in every respect thorough and comprehensive, and 
all over the country emergency measures began to astonish 
the public. Naval harbours were cleared, bridges were 
guarded, steamers were boarded and examined, watchers lined 
the coasts. 

First Sea Lord. 

Fourth Sea Lord. 

Director of Air Department. T , 

r July 29, 1 9 14. 

In the present stage of aeronautics, the primary duty of 
British aircraft is to fight enemy aircraft, and thus afford pro- 
tection against aerial attack. This should be made clear to 


air officers, Commander-in-Chief, Nore, and Admiral of Pa- 
trols, in order that machines may not be needlessly used up 
in ordinary scouting duties. After the primary requirement 
is well provided for, whatever aid is possible for coastal watch 
and extended defence scouting should be organised. But the 
naval aircraft are to regard the defence against attack from 
the air as their first and main responsibility. They must 
be carefully husbanded. W S P 

Director Intelligence Division. y > 9 4- 

Please mark off on my 'Table of Battleship Strength' all 
British and German Dreadnought battleships available for 
war (a) in the next month, and (b) at the end of three months. 
You should include the two Turkish ships in your calculation. 
Let me also have a similar table about battle-cruisers. 

w. s. c. 

Our war arrangements comprised an elaborate scheme for 
dealing with vessels under construction. In 191 2 measures 
had been taken to keep it perpetually up to date. The prin- 
ciple was that for the first three months of a war all efforts 
should be concentrated on finishing ships that could be ready 
in the first six months, other vessels whose dates of completion 
were more remote being somewhat retarded. This ensured 
the greatest possible superiority in the early months,'and would 
give us time to see what kind of a war it was and how it went, 
before dealing with more distant contingencies. The plan of 
course covered all ships building in Great Britain for foreign 
Powers. Of these there were two battleships building for 
Turkey, three flotilla leaders for Chili, four destroyers for 
Greece, and three monitors for Brazil. There were also other 
important ships, including a Chilian and a Brazilian battle- 
ship and a Dutch cruiser, which would not be ready till much 
later. The Turkish battleships were vital to us. With a 
margin of only seven Dreadnoughts we could not afford to do 
without these two fine ships. Still less could we afford to see 


them fall into bad hands and possibly be used against us. Had 
we delivered them to Turkey, they would, as the event turned 
out, have formed with the Goeben a hostile force which would 
have required a force of not less than five British Dreadnought 
battleships or battle-cruisers to watch them. Thus the British 
numbers would have been reduced by three instead of being 
increased by two. One of the Turkish battleships (the 
Reshadieh) which Armstrongs were building on the Tyne when 
the crisis began, was actually complete. The Turkish crew, 
over 500 strong, had already arrived to take her over and were 
lying in their steamer in the river. There seemed to be a great 
danger of their coming on board, brushing aside Messrs. 
Armstrongs' workmen and hoisting the Turkish flag, in which 
case a very difficult diplomatic situation would have been 
created. I determined to run no risks, and on the 31st July 
I sent written instructions that adequate military guards 
were to be placed on board this vessel and that in no circum- 
stances was she to be boarded by the Turks. It has some- 
times been made a ground for reproach against me that the 
requisition of these ships was one of the causes which brought 
Turkey into the war three months later. We now know that 
negotiations were taking place from the 24th July onwards 
between the Germans and the leaders of the Committee of 
Union and Progress for an alliance between Germany and 
Turkey, and that such Alliance was actually signed on 
August 2. 

It is interesting to read in the German Official History 
what they knew about our preparations at this time. 

'At 6.20 p.m. on July 28 the following telegram was re- 
ceived in Berlin from the German Naval Attache: — 

" Admiralty are not publishing ships' movements. 2nd 
Fleet remains fully manned. Schools closed in naval bases; 
preliminary measures taken for recall from leave. Accord- 
ing to unconfirmed news 1st Fleet still at Portland, one sub- 


marine flotilla left Portsmouth. It is to be assumed that Ad- 
miralty is preparing for mobilisation on the quiet." 

"He telegraphed later on the same day as follows: — 

"As already reported by telegram, the British Fleet is pre- 
paring for all eventualities. In broad outline the present dis- 
tribution is as follows: 1st Fleet is assembled at Portland. 
The battleship Bellerophon which was proceeding to Gibraltar 
for refit has been recalled. The ships of the 2nd Fleet are at 
their bases: they are fully manned. The schools on shore 
have not reopened. Ships of the 2nd and 3rd Fleets have 
coaled, completed with ammunition and supplies, and are at 
their bases. In consequence of the training of reservists, just 
completed, latter can be manned more quickly than usual 
and with more or less practised personnel, the Times says, 
within 48 hours. The destroyer and patrol flotillas and the 
submarines are either at or en route for their stations. No 
leave is being granted, officers and men already on leave have 
been recalled. 

"In the naval bases and dockyards great activity reigns; 
in addition special measures of precaution have been adopted, 
all dockyards, magazines, oil tanks, etc., being put under 
guard. Repairs of ships in dockyard hands are being speeded 
up. A great deal of night work is being done. 

"The Press reports that the Mediterranean squadron had 
left Alexandria; it is said that it will remain at Malta. 

"All ships and squadrons have orders to remain ready for 

"Outwardly complete calm is preserved, in order not to 
cause anxiety by alarming reports about the Fleet. 

"Movements of ships, which are generally published daily 
by the Admiralty, have been withheld since yesterday. . . . 

"The above preparations have been made on the Admi- 
ralty's independent initiative. The result is the same, who- 
ever gave the orders.'" 

The German Naval Attache thus showed himself extremely 
well informed. As I have already mentioned in an earlier 
chapter, the general warrant to open the letters of certain 
persons which I had signed three years before as Home 


Secretary, had brought to light a regular network of minor 
agents, mostly British, in German pay in all our naval ports. 
Had we arrested them, others of whom we might not have 
known, would have taken their place. We therefore thought 
it better, having detected them, to leave them at large. In 
this way one saw regularly from their communications, which 
we carefully forwarded, what they were saying to their pay- 
masters in Berlin during these years, and we knew exactly 
how to put our hands upon them at the proper moment. Up 
to this point we had no objection to the German Government 
knowing that exceptional precautions were being taken 
throughout the Navy. Indeed, apart from details, it was 
desirable that they should know how seriously we viewed the 
situation. But the moment had now come to draw down 
the curtain. We no longer forwarded the letters and a few 
days later, on a word from me to the Home Secretary, all 
these petty traitors, who for a few pounds a month were 
seeking to sell their country, were laid by the heels. Nor was 
it easy for the Germans to organise on the spur of the mo- 
ment others in their places. 

The most important step remains to be recounted. As 
early as Tuesday, July 28, I felt that the Fleet should go to 
its War Station. It must go there at once, and secretly; it 
must be steaming to the north while every German authority, 
naval or military, had the greatest possible interest in avoid- 
ing a collision with us. If it went thus early it need not go 
by the Irish Channel and northabout. It could go through 
the Straits of Dover and through the North Sea, and there- 
fore the island would not be uncovered even for a single day. 
Moreover, it would arrive sooner and with less expenditure 
of fuel. 

At about 10 o'clock, therefore, on the Tuesday morning 
I proposed this step to the First Sea Lord and the Chief of 
the Staff and found them wholeheartedly in favour of it. 
We decided that the Fleet should leave Portland at such an 


hour on the morning of the 29th as to pass the Straits of 
Dover during the hours of darkness, that it should traverse 
these waters at high speed and without lights, and with the 
utmost precaution proceed to Scapa Flow. I feared to bring 
this matter before the Cabinet, lest it should mistakenly be 
considered a provocative action likely to damage the chances 
of peace. It would be unusual to bring movements of the 
British Fleet in Home Waters from one British port to an- 
other before the Cabinet. I only therefore informed the 
Prime Minister, who at once gave his approval. Orders were 
accordingly sent to Sir George Callaghan, who was told inci- 
dentally to send the Fleet up under his second-in-command 
and to travel himself by land through London in order that 
we might have an opportunity of consultation with him. 

Admiralty to Commander-in-Chief Home Fleets. 

July 28, 1 9 14. Sent 5 p.m. 
To-morrow, Wednesday, the First Fleet is to leave Portland 
for Scapa Flow. Destination is to be kept secret except to 
flag and commanding officers. As you are required at the 
Admiralty, Vice-Admiral 2nd Battle Squadron is to take com- 
mand. Course from Portland is to be shaped to southward, 
then a middle Channel course to the Straits of Dover. The 
Squadrons are to pass through the Straits without lights dur- 
ing the night and to pass outside the shoals on their way north. 
Agamemnon is to remain at Portland, where the Second Fleet 
will assemble. 

We may now picture this great Fleet, with its flotillas and 
cruisers, steaming slowly out of Portland Harbour, squadron 
by squadron, scores of gigantic castles of steel wending their 
way across the misty, shining sea, like giants bowed in anxious 
thought. We may picture them again as darkness fell, eigh- 
teen miles of warships running at high speed and in absolute 
blackness through the Narrow Straits, bearing with them 
into the broad waters of the North the safeguard of consider- 
able affairs. 


Although there seemed to be no conceivable motive chance 
or mischance which could lead a rational German Admiralty 
to lay a trap of submarines or mines or have given them the 
knowledge and the time to do so, we looked at each other 
with much satisfaction when on Thursday morning (the 30th) 
at our daily Staff Meeting the Flagship reported herself and 
the whole Fleet well out in the centre of the North Sea. 1 

The German Ambassador lost no time in complaining of 
the movement of the Fleet to the Foreign Office. According 
to the German Official Naval History, he reported to his 
Government on the evening of the 30th that Sir Edward 
Grey had answered him in the following words: — 

'The movements of the Fleet are free of all offensive 
character, and the Fleet will not approach German waters/ 

'But/ adds the German historian, 'the strategic concen- 
tration of the Fleet had actually been accomplished with its 
transfer to Scottish ports/ This was true. We were now in 
a position, whatever happened, to control events, and it was 
not easy to see how this advantage could be taken from us. 
A surprise torpedo attack before or simultaneous with the 
declaration of war was at any rate one nightmare gone for 
ever. We could at least see for ten days ahead. If war 
should come no one would know where to look for the British 
Fleet. Somewhere in that enormous waste of waters to the 

1 Later in the morning I learnt that Lord Fisher was in the office 
and I invited him into my room. I told him what we had done and 
his delight was wonderful to see. 

Foolish statements have been made from time to time that this 
sending of the Fleet to the North was done at Lord Fisher's suggestion. 
The interview with me which Lord Fisher records in his book is cor- 
rectly given by him as having taken place on the 30th. The Fleet had 
actually passed the Straits of Dover the night before. I think it 
necessary to place on record the fact that my sole naval adviser on 
every measure taken prior to the declaration of war was the First Sea 


north of our islands, cruising now this way, now that, shrouded 
in storms and mists, dwelt this mighty organisation. Yet 
from the Admiralty building we could speak to them at any 
moment if need arose. The king's ships were at sea. 


July 3 1 -August 4 

* The meteor flag of England 

Shall yet terrific burn; 
Till danger's troubled night depart, 
And the star of peace return.' 


Cabinet Tension — The Opposition Leaders — The Naval Reserves — 
British Decision to close the Chanel to German Warships — Ger- 
many declares War upon Russia — General Mobilisation of the 
Navy — Sir John Jellicoe appointed Commander-in-Chief — Ger- 
man Invasion of Luxemburg and Belgium — Monday, August 3, 
in the House of Commons — British Ultimatum to Germany — 
Nation and Empire — Situation in the Mediterranean — Menace 
of the Goeben — Admiralty Instructions to Sir Berkeley Milne — 
August 4. The Goeben found — Cabinet veto on Hostilities — 
Italian Declaration of Neutrality — First Escape of the Goeben — 
Awaiting the Signal — ' Commence hostilities against Germany.' 

/ I \HERE was complete agreement in the Cabinet upon 
-*- every telegram sent by Sir Edward Grey and in his 
handling of the crisis. But there was also an invincible re- 
fusal on the part of the majority to contemplate British inter- 
vention by force of arms should the Foreign Secretary's efforts 
fail and a European war begin. Thus, as the terrific week 
wore on and the explosion became inevitable, it seemed prob- 
able that a rupture of the political organism by which the 
country had so long been governed was also rapidly approach- 
ing. I lived this week entirely in the official circle, seeing 
scarcely anyone but my colleagues of the Cabinet or of the 
Admiralty, and moving only to and fro across the Horse 



Guards between Admiralty House and Downing Street. Each 
day as the telegrams arrived showing the darkening scene of 
Europe, and the Cabinets ended in growing tension, I pulled 
over the various levers which successively brought our naval 
organisation into full preparedness. It was always necessary 
to remember that if Peace was preserved every one of these 
measures, alarmist in their character and involving much ex- 
pense, would have to be justified to a Liberal House of Com- 
mons. That assembly once delivered from the peril, would 
certainly proceed upon the assumption that British participa- 
tion in a Continental struggle would have been criminal mad- 
ness. Yet it was not practicable often to divert the main 
discussions of the Cabinet into purely technical channels. It 
was therefore necessary for me to take a peculiar and invidi- 
ous personal responsibility for many things that had to be 
done when their turn came. I had also to contemplate a 
break up of the governing instrument. Judged by reports 
and letters from members, the attitude of the House of Com- 
mons appeared most uncertain. 

On Thursday evening I entered into communication with 
the Unionist leaders through Mr. F. E. Smith. 1 I informed 
him of the increasing gravity of the European situation and 
of the military preparations which were everywhere in prog- 
ress in Europe. I stated that no decision had been reached 
by the Cabinet, and that I had received letters from one or 
two Unionists of influence protesting vehemently against our 
being drawn into a Continental war. I asked him to let me 
know where he and his friends stood on the supreme issue. 
He replied at once that he himself was unreservedly for stand- 
ing by France and Belgium. After consulting with Mr. 
Bonar Law, Sir Edward Carson and others who were gath- 
ered at Sir Edward Goulding's house at Wargrave, he sent 
me the following written assurance, which I showed to Mr. 
Asquith the next morning (Saturday). 

1 Now Lord Birkenhead. 


Mr. F. E. Smith to Mr. Churchill. 

July 31, 1914. 
I have spoken to my friends of whom you know and I have 
no doubt that on the facts as we understand them — and 
more particularly on the assumption (which we understand 
to be certain) that Germany contemplates a violation of Bel- 
gian neutrality — the Government can rely upon the support 
of the Unionist Party in whatever manner that support can 
be most effectively given. 

Secretary, Saturday, August 1, 1914. 

First Sea Lord. 

It seems certain that the order to mobilise will be issued 
after Cabinet this morning. Have everything in readiness. 

Examination service should be put into force simultane- 

ousl y- w. s. c. 

At the Cabinet I demanded the immediate calling out of 
the Fleet Reserves and the completion of our naval prepara- 
tions. I based this claim on the fact that the German Navy 
was mobilising and that we must do the same. The Cabinet, 
who were by no means ill-informed on matters of naval organ- 
isation, took the view after a sharp discussion that this step 
was not necessary to our safety, as mobilisation only affected 
the oldest ships in the Fleet, and that our main naval power 
was already in full preparedness for war and the Fleet in its 
war station. I replied that though this was true, we needed 
the Third Fleet ships, particularly the older cruisers, to fulfil 
the roles assigned to them in our war plan. However, I did 
not succeed in procuring their assent. 

On Saturday evening I dined alone at the Admiralty. The 
foreign telegrams came in at short intervals in red boxes 
which already bore the special label 'Sub-Committee,' denot- 
ing the precautionary period. The flow was quite continu- 
ous, and the impression produced on my mind after reading 


for nearly an hour was that there was still a chance of peace. 
Austria had accepted the conference, and intimate personal 
appeals were passing between the Tsar and the Kaiser. It 
seemed to me, from the order in which I read the series of 
telegrams, that at the very last moment Sir Edward Grey 
might succeed in saving the situation. So far no shot had 
been fired between the Great Powers. I wondered whether 
armies and fleets could remain mobilised for a space without 
fighting and then demobilise. 

I had hardly achieved this thought when another Foreign 
Office box came in. I opened it and read 'Germany has de- 
clared war on Russia/ There was no more to be said. I 
walked across the Horse Guards Parade and entered 10 
Downing Street, by the garden gate. I found the Prime 
Minister upstairs in his drawing-room: with him were Sir 
Edward Grey, Lord Haldane and Lord Crewe; there may have 
been other Ministers. I said that I intended instantly to 
mobilise the Fleet notwithstanding the Cabinet decision, and 
that I would take full personal responsibility to the Cabinet 
the next morning. The Prime Minister, who felt himself 
bound to the Cabinet, said not a single word, but it was clear 
from his look that he was quite content. As I walked down 
the steps of Downing Street with Sir Edward Grey, he said 
to me, 'You should know I have just done a very important 
thing. I have told Cambon that we shall not allow the Ger- 
man fleet to come into the Channel. ' I went back to the 
Admiralty and gave forthwith the order to mobilise. We 
had no legal authority for calling up the Naval Reserves, as 
no proclamation had been submitted to His Majesty in view 
of the Cabinet decision, but we were quite sure that the Fleet 
men would unquestioningly obey the summons. This action 
was ratified by the Cabinet on Sunday morning, and the 
Royal Proclamation was issued some hours later. 

Another decision and a painful one was required. Sir 
George Callaghan's command of the Home Fleets had been 


extended by a year, and was now due to end on the ist Octo- 
ber. It had been announced that he would then be succeeded 
by Sir John Jellicoe. Further, our arrangements prescribed 
that Sir John Jellicoe should act as second-in-command in the 
event of war. The First Sea Lord and I had a conference 
with Sir George Callagban, on his way through London to the 
North on the 30th. As the result of this conference we decided 
that if war came, it would be necessary to appoint Sir John 
Jellicoe immediately to the chief command. We were doubtful 
as to Sir George Callaghan's health and physical strength being 
equal to the immense strain that would be cast upon him; 
and in the crash of Europe it was no time to consider indi- 
viduals. Sir John Jellicoe left London for the Fleet with 
sealed instructions, directing him on the seals being broken 
to take over the command. On the night of August 2, when 
we considered war certain, we telegraphed to both Admirals 
apprising them of the Admiralty decision. It was naturally a 
cruel blow to Sir George Callaghan to have to lay down his 
charge at such a moment, and his protests were re-echoed by 
practically all the principal Admirals who had served under 
him and by Sir John Jellicoe himself. It was also a grave 
matter to make a change in the command of the Fleets at 
this juncture. However, we did what we thought right, and 
that without an hour's delay. Sir John Jellicoe assumed com- 
mand on the evening of August 3, and received almost imme- 
diately an order from the Admiralty to proceed to sea at 
daylight on the 4th. 

The Cabinet sat almost continuously throughout the Sun- 
day, and up till luncheon-time it looked as if the majority 
would resign. The grief and horror of so many able colleagues 
were painful to witness. But what could any one do? In 
the luncheon interval I saw Mr. Balfour, a veritable rock in 
times like these, and learned that the Unionist leaders had 
tendered formally in writing to the Prime Minister their un- 
qualified assurances of support. 


I returned to the Admiralty. We telegraphed to our 
Commanders-in-Chief : — 

To-day, August 2, at 2.20 the following note was handed 
to the French and German Ambassadors. [Begins] The Brit- 
ish Government would not allow the passage of German ships 
through the English Channel or the North Sea in order to 
attack the coasts or shipping of France [ends]. 

Be prepared to meet surprise attacks. 

The French Naval Attache, the Comte de Saint-Seine had 
been summoned. The following is the precis of our con- 
versation: — 

August 2, 1914. 

The First Lord in the presence of the First Sea Lord and 
Chief of the War Staff, informed the French Naval Attache 
of the Cabinet's decision and the note on naval matters handed 
to M. Cambon at 2.20 p.m., August 2. 

In order to prepare for the possibility of an alliance being 
concluded between the Governments, but without prejudg- 
ing the question, the following preliminary steps are to be 
taken: — 

The package containing the secret signal books to be dis- 
tributed and opened but not used. 

Mutual regulations for the entry of allied ships into each 
other's ports to be issued now. 

The officers in command of the Mediterranean and China 
Stations will be given permission to enter into communica- 
tion with the French Senior Officers in command on their 

Certain staff questions were discussed, but the First Lord 
clearly pointed out that these involved no question of pol- 
icy which would have to be decided by Parliament. 

The general direction of the naval war to rest with the 
British Admiralty. 

The direction of the allied fleets in the Mediterranean to 
rest with the French, the British Admiral being junior. 

In the event of the neutrality of Italy being assured, France 
would undertake to deal with Austria assisted only by such 
British ships as would be required to cover German ships 


in that sea, and secure a satisfactory composition of the 
allied fleet. 

The arrangement come to locally on the China Station 
would be carried out under the general direction of the British 

British naval bases would be at the disposal of the French. 

Should any portion of the German main fleet make its way 
South towards the Mediterranean, it would be followed by a 
superior British force. 

The Attache was asked to communicate the above at once 
to his Government by telegraph and obtain full knowledge 
and authority for a further discussion on details to-night. 

Meanwhile events were influencing opinion hour by hour. 
When the Cabinet met on Sunday morning we were in pres- 
ence of the violation of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg by 
the German troops. In the evening the German ultimatum 
to Belgium was delivered. The next day arrived the appeal 
of the King of the Belgians that the guaranteeing Powers 
should uphold the sanctity of the Treaty regarding the neu- 
trality of Belgium. This last was decisive. By Monday the 
majority of Mr. Asquith's colleagues regarded war as in- 
evitable. Discussion was resumed on Monday morning in a 
different atmosphere, though it seemed certain that there 
would be numerous resignations. 

Before the Cabinet separated on Monday morning, Sir Ed- 
ward Grey had procured a predominant assent to the prin- 
cipal points and general tone of his statement to Parliament 
that afternoon. Formal sanction had been given to the al- 
ready completed mobilisation of the Fleet and to the imme- 
diate mobilisation of the Army. No decision had been taken 
to send an ultimatum to Germany or to declare war upon 
Germany, still less to send an army to France. These supreme 
decisions were never taken at any Cabinet. They were com- 
pelled by the force of events, and rest on the authority of the 
Prime Minister. We repaired to the House of Commons to 
hear the statement of the Foreign Secretary. I did not know 


which of our colleagues had resigned or what the composition 
of a War Government would be. The aspect of the assem- 
bly was awed but resolute. No one could mistake its inten- 
tion. Sir Edward Grey made his statement with the utmost 
moderation. In order that there should be no ground for 
future reproaches, he informed the House that the Germans 
were willing to comply with the British demand that no 
German warships should be sent into the English Channel. 
The sombre march of his argument carried this weighty ad- 
mission forward in its stride. When he sat down he was 
possessed in an overwhelming measure of the support of the 
assembly. Neither he nor I could remain long in the House. 
Outside, I asked him 'What happens now?' 'Now,' he said, 
'we shall send them an ultimatum to stop the invasion of 
Belgium within 24 hours.' 

Some of the Ministers still clung to the hope that Germany 
would comply with the British ultimatum and would arrest 
the onrush of her armies upon Belgium. As well recall the 
avalanche, as easily suspend in mid-career the great ship 
that has been launched and is sliding down the ways. Ger- 
many was already at war with Russia and France. It was 
certain that in 24 hours she would be at war with the 
British Empire also. 

All through the tense discussions of the Cabinet one had 
in mind another greater debate which must begin when 
these were concluded. Parliament, the nation, the Domin- 
ions, would have to be convinced. That the cause was 
good, that the argument was overwhelming, that the response 
would be worthy, I did not for a moment doubt. But it 
seemed J:hat an enormous political task awaited us, and I 
saw in the mind's eye not only the crowded House of Com- 
mons, but formidable assembly of the people throughout the 
land requiring full and swift justification of the flaming action 
taken in their name. But such cares were soon dispersed. 
When the Council doors had opened and Ministers had come 


into the outer air, the British nation was surging forward in 
its ancient valour, and the Empire had sprung to arms. 

'Men met each other with erected look, 
The steps were higher that they took, 
Friends to congratulate their friends made haste; 
And long inveterate foes saluted as they passed.' 1 

Meanwhile in the Mediterranean a drama of intense in- 
terest and as it ultimately proved of fateful consequence, 
was being enacted. 

The event which would dominate all others, if war broke 
out, was the main shock of battle between the French and 
German armies. We knew that the French were counting on 
placing in the line a whole army corps of their best troops 
from North Africa, and that every man was needed. We 
were informed also that they intended to transport these 
troops across the Mediterranean as fast as ships could be 
loaded, under the general protection of the French Fleet, 
but without any individual escort or system of convoys. The 
French General Staff calculated that whatever happened 
most of the troops would get across. The French Fleet dis- 
posed between this stream of transports and the Austrian 
Fleet afforded a good guarantee. But there was one ship in 
the Mediterranean which far outstripped in speed every vessel 
in the French Navy. She was the Goeben. The only heavy 
ships in the Mediterranean that could attempt to compete 
with the Goeben in speed were the three British battle-cruisers. 
It seemed that the Goeben, being free to choose any point on 
a front of three or four hundred miles, would easily be able to 
avoid the French Battle Squadrons and, brushing aside or 
outstripping their cruisers, break in upon the transports and 
sink one after another of these vessels crammed with soldiers. 

1 Dryden, Threnodia Augustalis. 


It occurred to me at this time that perhaps 1 that was the task 
she had been sent to the Mediterranean to perform. For this 
reason as a further precaution I had suggested to the First 
Sea Lord as early as July 28 that an additional battle cruiser, 
the New Zealand, should be sent to reinforce our squadron. 
When it came to the pinch a few days later, Admiral Boue 
de Lapeyrere, the French Commander-in-Chief, adopted a 
system of convoys; and on August 4 he prudently delayed 
the embarkation of the troops until he could organise ade- 
quate escorts. But of this change of plan the Admiralty was 
not advised. 

On July 30 I called for the war orders of the Mediterranean 
command and discussed them fully with the First Sea Lord. 
These orders, issued in August, 1913, had had to take into 
consideration a variety of political contingencies, viz. Great 
Britain at war with Germany only, with Germany and Aus- 
tria only, or with Germany, Austria and Italy; and Great 
Britain and France allied together against each or any of the 
three aforesaid opponents. The course to be followed dif- 
fered somewhat in each case. Briefly, if Britain found her- 
self single-handed against the whole Triple Alliance, we should 
temporarily have to abandon the Mediterranean and con- 
centrate at Gibraltar. In all other cases the concentration 
would be at Malta, and if the French were allies our squad- 
rons would join them for a general battle. It now seemed 
necessary to give the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediter- 
ranean some more specific information and directions. 

Admiralty to Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean. 

July 30, 1914. 
It now seems probable should war break out and England 
and France engage in it, that Italy will remain neutral and 
that Greece can be made an ally. Spain also will be friendly 
and possibly an ally. The attitude of Italy is however un- 
certain, and it is especially important that your Squadron 
should not be seriously engaged with Austrian ships before 


we know what Italy will do. Your first task should be to 
aid the French in the transportation of their African army by 
covering and if possible bringing to action individual fast 
German ships, particularly Goeben, which may interfere with 
that transportation. You will be notified by telegraph when 
you may consult with the French Admiral. Except in com- 
bination with the French as part of a general battle, do not 
at this stage be brought to action against superior forces. 
The speed of your Squadrons is sufficient to enable you to 
choose your moment. You must husband your force at 
the outset and we shall hope later to reinforce the Mediter- 

These directions on which the First Sea Lord and I were 
completely in accord, gave the Commander-in-Chief guidance 
in the general conduct of the naval campaign; they warned 
him against fighting a premature single-handed battle with 
the Austrian Fleet in which our battle cruisers and cruisers 
would be confronted with Austrian Dreadnought Battle- 
ships; they told him to aid the French in transporting their 
African forces, and they told him how to do it, viz., 'by cov- 
ering and, if possible, bringing to action individual fast Ger- 
man ships, particularly Goeben' So far as the English lan- 
guage may serve as a vehicle of thought, the words employed 
appear to express the intentions we had formed. 

Sir Berkeley Milne accordingly replied on July 31 that he 
would keep his forces concentrated in readiness to assist the 
French Fleet to protect the transports, and he rightly left 
our trade in the Eastern Mediterranean to shift for itself. 
In this posture he awaited permission to consult with the 
French Admiral. This permission could not be given him 
till August 2 at 7.6 p.m., when I telegraphed as follows to 
our Commanders-in-Chief all over the world: — 

' Situation very critical. Be prepared to meet surprise at- 
tacks. You can enter into communication with the French 
Senior Officer on your station for combined action in case 


Great Britain should decide to become ally of France against 
Germany. ' 

Earlier that same day the following, initialled both by the 
First Sea Lord and myself, was also sent to Sir Berkeley Milne 
from the Admiralty: — 

'Goeben must be shadowed by two battle-cruisers. Ap- 
proaches to Adriatic must be watched by cruisers and de- 
stroyers. Remain near Malta yourself. It is believed that 
Italy will remain neutral, but you cannot yet count absolutely 
on this/ 

At 12.50 a.m. on August 3, I emphasised the importance 
of the Goeben compared with all other objectives by a further 
telegram, which I' drafted myself, to Sir Berkeley Milne: — 

'Watch on mouth of Adriatic should be maintained, but 
Goeben is your objective. Follow her and shadow her wherever 
she goes and be ready to act on declaration of war, which 
appears probable and imminent.' 

Early on the morning of August 4 we were delighted by the 
following news from the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, 
to the Admiralty : — 

'Indomitable, Indefatigable shadowing Goeben and Breslau 
37*44 North 7*56 East/ 

We replied: — 

'Very good. Hold her. War imminent.'' 
(This to go now.) 

'Goeben is to be prevented by force from interfering with 
French transports.' 

(This to await early confirmation.) 

I then sent the following minute to the Prime Minister 
and Sir Edward Grey: — 


(Most Urgent.) 
Prime Minister. 
Sir Edward Grey. 

German battle-cruiser Goeben and fast light cruiser Breslau 
have been found west of Sicily and are being shadowed by 
British battle-cruisers Indomitable and Indefatigable. It 
would be a great misfortune to lose these vessels as is possible 
in the dark hours. She is evidently going to interfere with the 
French transports which are crossing to-day. 

The following telegram has already been sent : — 

' Good. Hold her. War imminent.' 

We wish to add this: — 

* If Goeben attacks French transports you should at once en- 
gage her.' 

An immediate decision is required. 

Sir Edward Grey agreed to this and so did the Prime Minis- 
ter, but the latter asked that it should be mentioned to the 
Cabinet, which was meeting almost immediately, for their 
confirmation. On this I sent, before going to the Cabinet, 
the following: — 

'If Goeben attacks French transports you should at once 
engage her. You should give her fair warning of this before- 

The Cabinet, however, adhered formally to the view that 
no act of war should be committed by us before the expiration 
of the ultimatum. The moral integrity of the British Empire 
must not be compromised at this solemn moment for the sake 
of sinking a single ship. 

The Goeben of course did not attack the French transports. 
In fact, though this we did not know at the time, she was 
steaming away from the French transport routes when sighted 
by the Indomitable and Indefatigable. Even if, however, she 
had attacked transports, the decision of the British Cabinet 
would have prevented our battle-cruisers from interfering. 


This decision obviously carried with it the still more impera- 
tive veto against opening fire on the Goeben, if she did not 
attack French transports, during the hours when we had her 
in our power. I cannot impeach the decision. It is right 
that the world should know of it. But little did we imagine 
how much this spirit of honourable restraint was to cost us 
and all the world. 

In consequence of the Cabinet decision, the First Sea Lord 
sent by my directions the following telegram from the Ad- 
miralty : — 

Admiralty to all ships, August 4, 2.5 p.m. 

The British ultimatum to Germany will expire at midnight 
Greenwich Mean Time, August 4. No act of war should be 
committed before that hour, at which time the telegram to 
commence hostilities against Germany will be dispatched from 
the Admiralty. 

Special addition to Mediterranean, Indomitable, Indefati- 

This cancels the authorisation to Indomitable and Inde- 
fatigable to engage Goeben if she attacks French transports. 

At about the same time I received the following minute 
from the First Sea Lord: — 

First Lord. August 4. 

In view of the Italian declaration of neutrality, propose to 
telegraph to Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, acquaint- 
ing him and enjoining him to respect this rigidly and not to 
allow a ship to come within six miles of the Italian coast. 


Considering how disastrous it would be if any petty inci- 
dent occurred which could cause trouble at this fateful 
moment with Italy and approving of the First Sea Lord's 
precaution, I replied in writing: — 

August 4. 

So proceed. Foreign Office should intimate this to Italian 
Government. W. S. C. 


Thereupon at 12.55 P- m - the following telegram was sent 
by the Admiralty to the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediter- 
ranean: — 

Italian Government have declared neutrality. You are to 
respect this neutrality rigidly and should not allow any of His 
Majesty's ships to come within six miles of Italian coast. 

This certainly as it turned out was destined to complicate 
the task of catching the Goeben; but not, as it will appear, 
in a decisive manner. 

During the afternoon I sent the following minute to the 
Chief of the Staff and the First Sea Lord. 

August 4, 1914. 

I presume you have fully informed French Admiralty of our 
intentions and that the closest co-operation has been estab- 
lished at all points with the French Fleet. If not, this should 
be done immediately. W. S. C. 

On this the Chief of the Staff sent the following telegram 
to all stations: 'You can enter into the closest co-operation 
with the French officers on your station.' 

Throughout this long summer afternoon three great ships, 
hunted and hunters, were cleaving the clear waters of the 
Mediterranean in tense and oppressive calm. At any mo- 
ment the Goeben could have been smitten at under 10,000 
yards range by sixteen 12-inch guns firing nearly treble her 
own weight of metal. At the Admiralty we suffered the tor- 
tures of Tantalus. 

At about 5 o'clock Prince Louis observed that there was 
still time to sink the Goeben before dark. In the face of 
the Cabinet decision I was unable to utter a word. Noth- 
ing less than the vital safety of Great Britain could have 
justified so complete an overriding of the authority of the 
Cabinet. We hoped to sink her the next day. Where could 
she go? Pola seemed her only refuge throughout the Medi- 


terranean. According to international law nothing but in- 
ternment awaited her elsewhere. The Turks had kept their 
secret well. As the shadows of night fell over the Mediter- 
ranean the Goeben increased her speed to twenty-four knots, 
which was the utmost that our two battle-cruisers could 
steam. She increased her speed still further. We have since 
learned that she was capable for a very short time of an 
exceptional speed, rising even to twenty-six or twenty-seven 
knots. Aided by this, she shook off her unwelcome com- 
panions and vanished gradually in the gathering gloom. 
We shall return to this story in due course. 

At 5.50 p.m. we sent the following message: — 

Admiralty to all ships. 

General message. The war telegram will be issued at mid- 
night authorising you to commence hostilities against Ger- 
many, but in view of our ultimatum they may decide to open 
fire at any moment. You must be ready for this. 

Now, after all the stress and convulsion of the preceding 
ten days, there came to us at the Admiralty a strange inter- 
lude of calm. All the decisions had been taken. The ulti- 
matum to Germany had gone: it must certainly be rejected. 
War would be declared at midnight. As far as we had been 
able to foresee the event, all our preparations were made. 
Mobilisation was complete. Every ship was in its station: 
every man at his post. All over the world, every British 
captain and admiral was on guard. It only remained to 
give the signal. What would happen then? It seemed that 
the next move lay with the enemy. What would he do? 
Had he some deadly surprise in store? Some awful design, 
long planned and perfected, ready to explode upon us at any 
moment NOW ? Would our ships in foreign waters have been 


able to mark down their German antagonists ? If so, morning 
would witness half a dozen cruiser actions in the outer seas. 
Telegrams flowed in from the different naval stations round 
our coasts reporting the movements of vessels and rumours 
of sighting of enemies. Telegrams still flowed in from the 
Chancelleries of Europe as the last futile appeals of reason 
were overtaken by the cannonade. In the War Room of the 
Admiralty, where I sat waiting, one could hear the clock tick. 
From Parliament Street came the murmurs of the crowd; 
but they sounded distant and the world seemed very still. 
The tumult of the struggle for life was over: it was succeeded 
by the silence of ruin and death. We were to awake in Pan- 

I had the odd sense that it was like waiting for an election 
result. The turmoil of the contest seemed finished: the votes 
were being counted, and in a few hours the announcement 
would be made. One could only wait; but for what a result ! 
Although the special duties of my office made it imperative 
that I, of all others, should be vigilant and forward in all that 
related to preparation for war, I claim, as these pages show, 
that in my subordinate station I had in these years before 
the war done nothing wittingly or willingly to impair the 
chances of a peaceable solution, and had tried my best as 
opportunity offered to make good relations possible between 
England and Germany. I thank God I could feel also in 
that hour that our country was guiltless of all intended pur- 
pose of war. Even if we had made some mistakes in the 
handling of this awful crisis, though I do not know them, from 
the bottom of our hearts we could say that we had not willed 
it. Germany it seemed had rushed with head down and 
settled resolve to her own undoing. And if this were what 
she had meant all along, if this was the danger which had 
really menaced us hour by hour during the last five years, 
and would have hung over us hour by hour until the crash 
eventually came, was it not better that it should happen 


now: now that she had put herself so hopelessly in the wrong, 
now that we were ready beyond the reach of surprise, now 
that France and Russia and Great Britain were all in the line 
together ? 

The First Sea Lord and the Chief of the Staff came in with 
French Admirals who had hurried over to concert in detail 
arrangements for the co-operation of the two Fleets in the 
Channel and in the Mediterranean. They were fine figures 
in uniform, and very grave. One felt in actual contact with 
these French officers how truly the crisis was life or death 
for France. They spoke of basing the French Fleet on Malta 
— that same Malta for which we had fought Napoleon for so 
many years, which was indeed the very pretext of the renewal 
of the war in 1803. i Malta ou la guerre! 1 Little did the Na- 
poleon of St. Helena dream that in her most desperate need 
France would have at her disposal the great Mediterranean 
base which his strategic instinct had deemed vital. I said to 
the Admirals, 'Use Malta as if it were Toulon/ 

The minutes passed slowly. 

Once more now in the march of centuries Old England was 
to stand forth in battle against the mightiest thrones and 
dominations. Once more in defence of the liberties of Eu- 
rope and the common right must she enter upon a voyage of 
great toil and hazard across waters uncharted, towards coasts 
unknown, guided only by the stars. Once more 'the far-off 
line of storm-beaten ships' was to stand between the Conti- 
nental Tyrant and the dominion of the world. 

It was 11 o'clock at night — 12 by German time — when 
the ultimatum expired. The windows of the Admiralty were 
thrown wide open in the warm night air. Under the roof 
from which Nelson had received his orders were gathered a 
small group of Admirals and Captains and a cluster of clerks, 
pencil in hand, waiting. Along the Mall from the direction 
of the Palace the sound of an immense concourse singing 
'God save the King' floated in. On this deep wave there 


broke the chimes of Big Ben; and, as the first stroke of the 
hour boomed out, a rustle of movement swept across the room. 
The war telegram, which meant ' Commence hostilities against 
Germany/ was flashed to the ships and establishments under 
the White Ensign all over the world. 

I walked across the Horse Guards' Parade to the Cabinet 
room and reported to the Prime Minister and the Ministers 
who were assembled there that the deed was done. 


August 4- August 22 1 9 14 

'The Time to visualise what will fall under the harrow of war is 
before the harrow is set in motion. Afterwards comes in Inevitable- 
ness with iron lips, and Fatalism with unscrutinising gaze, and Us 
with filmed eyes, and Instinct with her cry, "Do not look too closely, 
seeing one must keep one's senses !" ' 

Mary Johnston, ' Cease Firing/ Chapter XXIX. 

British Strategy — The Great War Council, August 5 — Four Divisions 
or Six — Changes in the Cabinet — Lord Kitchener: Secretary of 
State for War — Organisation of the British Armies — Lord Kit- 
chener's Task — The Royal Naval Division — Departure of the 
German and Austrian Ambassadors — The Board of Admiralty in 
War — Responsibilities of the First Lord — Procedure — The Ger- 
man Method — Relative Naval Strength — The Prospects of Bat- 
tle — British Command of the Sea — Paralysis of the German Mer- 
cantile Marine — Frustration of the German Attack on Trade — 
The Goeben at Messina on August 5 — Knowledge and Dispositions 
of Sir Berkeley Milne — Orders to the Indomitable — The Southern 
Exit — No Contact with the French — The Goeben and Breslau 
leave Messina — Rear-Admiral Troubridge's Successive Decisions 
— Second Escape of the Goeben — Explanations — A Sinister Fatal- 
ity — Final Abandonment of the Pursuit — Transportation of the 
British Army to France — Instructions to Sir John Jellicoe — Cov- 
ering Movements of the Fleet — Safe Passage of the Army — The 
Deadly Hush. 

/ T A HE entry of Great Britain into war with the most power- 
■*■ ful military Empire which has ever existed was strategi- 
cally impressive. Her large Fleets vanished into the mists 
at one end of the island. Her small Army hurried out of the 
country at the other. By this double gesture she might seem 
to uninstructed eyes to divest herself of all her means of 
defence, and to expose her coasts nakedly to the hostile thrust. 



Yet these two movements, dictated by the truest strategy, 
secured at once our own safety and the salvation of our Allies. 
The Grand Fleet gained the station whence the control of the 
seas could be irresistibly asserted. The Regular Army reached 
in the nick of time the vital post on the flank of the French 
line. Had all our action been upon this level, we should 
to-day be living in an easier world. 

The differences which had prevailed about entering the war 
were aggravated by a strong cross-current of opinion, by no 
means operative only in the Cabinet, that if we participated 
it should be by naval action alone. Men of great power and 
influence, who throughout the struggle laboured tirelessly and 
rendered undoubted services, were found at this time reso- 
lutely opposed to the landing of a single soldier on the Con- 
tinent. And, if everything had not been prepared, if the 
plan had not been perfected, if it had not been the only plan, 
and if all military opinion had not been industriously mar- 
shalled round it — who shall say what fatal hesitancy might 
not have intervened? 

On the afternoon of August 5 the Prime Minister convened 
an extraordinary Council of War at Downing Street. I do 
not remember any gathering like it. It consisted of the Min- 
isters most prominently associated with the policy of our 
entering the war, the chiefs of the Navy and the Army, all the 
high military commanders, and in addition Lord Kitchener 
and Lord Roberts. Decision was required upon the ques- 
tion, How should we wage the war that had just begun? 
Those who spoke for the War Office knew their own minds 
and were united. The whole British Army should be sent at 
once to France, according to what may justly be called the 
Haldane Plan. Everything in that Minister's eight years' 
tenure of the War Office had led up to this and had been sac- 
rificed for this. To place an army of four or six divisions of 


infantry thoroughly equipped with their necessary cavalry on 
the left of the French line within twelve or fourteen days of 
the order to mobilise, and to guard the home island mean- 
while by the fourteen Territorial Divisions he had organised, 
was the scheme upon which, aided by Field-Marshals Nichol- 
son and French, he had concentrated all his efforts and his 
stinted resources. It was a simple plan, but it was a practi- 
cal plan. It had been persistently pursued and laboriously 
and minutely studied. It represented approximately the max- 
imum war effort that the voluntary system would yield ap- 
plied in the most effective and daring manner to the decisive 
spot; and mobilisation schemes, railway graphics, time-tables, 
the organisation of bases, depots, supply arrangements, etc., 
filling many volumes, regulated and ensured a thorough and 
concerted execution. A commander whose whole life led up 
to this moment had been chosen. All that remained to be 
done was to take the decision and give the signal. 

At this point I reported on behalf of the Admiralty that 
our mobilisation being in every respect complete and all our 
ships in their war stations, we would waive the claim we had 
hitherto made in all the discussions of the Committee of Im- 
perial Defence that two Regular Divisions should be retained 
in Great Britain as a safeguard against invasion, and that so 
far as the Admiralty was concerned, not four but the whole 
. six divisions could go at once; that we would provide for their 
transportation and for the security of the island in their ab- 
sence. This considerable undertaking was made good by the 
Royal Navy. 

Discussion then turned upon the place to which they should 
be dispatched. Lord Roberts inquired whether it was not 
possible to base the British Army on Antwerp so as to strike, 
in conjunction with the Belgian armies, at the flank and rear 
of the invading German hosts. We were not able from an 
Admiralty point of view to guarantee the sea communications 
of so large a force on the enemy side of the Straits of Dover, 


but only inside the Anglo-French flotilla cordon which had 
already taken up its station. Moreover, no plans had been 
worked out by the War Office for such a contingency. They 
had concentrated all their thought upon integral co-operation 
with the French left wherever it might be. It was that or 

Another discussion took place upon how far forward the 
British Expeditionary Force should be concentrated. Some 
high authorities, dwelling on the fact that the mobilisation of 
the British army had begun three days later than the French, 
were for concentrating it around Amiens for intervention 
after the first shock of battle had been taken. But in the 
end Sir John French and the forward school had their way 
and it was felt that we must help France in the way the 
French Staff thought would be most effective. 

When I next went to the Cabinet after the declaration of 
war, I found myself with new companions. During the previ- 
ous seven years Lord Morley had always sat on the left of the 
Prime Minister, and I had always sat next to Lord Morley. 
Many a wise and witty admonition had I received pencilled in 
scholarly phrase from my veteran neighbour, and many a 
charming courtesy such as he excelled in had graced the toil- 
some path of business. He had said to me on the Sunday of 
Resolve, 'If it has to be, I am not the man to do it. I should 
only hamper those like you who have to bear the burden.' 
Now he was gone. In his place sat Lord Kitchener. On my 
left also there was a fresh figure — the new Minister of Agricul- 
ture, Lord Lucas. I had known him since South African 
War days, when he lost his leg: and to know him was to de- 
light in him. His open, gay, responsive nature, his witty, 
ironical, but never unchivalrous tongue, his pleasing presence, 
his compulsive smile, made him much courted by his friends, 
of whom he had many and of whom I was one. Young for 


the Cabinet, heir to splendid possessions, happy in all that 
surrounded him, he seemed to have captivated Fortune with 
the rest. 

Both these two men were marked for death at the hands of 
the enemy, the young Minister grappling with his adversary 
in the high air, the old Field Marshal choking in the icy sea. 
I wonder what the twenty politicians round the table would 
have felt if they had been told that the prosaic British Cabinet 
was itself to be decimated in the war they had just declared. 
I think they would have felt a sense of pride and of relief 
in sharing to some extent the perils to which they were 
to send their countrymen, their friends, their sons. 

At the Council of War on August 5 Lord Kitchener had 
not yet become Secretary of State for War, but I knew 
that his appointment was impending. The Prime Minister, 
then also Secretary of State for War, could not possibly be 
burdened with the continuous flow of inter-departmental work 
proceeding between the War Office and the Admiralty and 
requiring to be transacted between Ministers. He therefore 
invited Lord Kitchener to undertake ministerial charge of 
the War Office, and the Field-Marshal, who had certainly not 
sought this post in any way, had no choice but to accept. 

My relations with Lord Kitchener had been limited. Our 
first meeting had been on the field of Omdurman, when as a 
lieutenant in the 21st Lancers I had been sent back to report 
verbally to the Commander-in-Chief the position of the ad- 
vancing Dervish Army. He had disapproved of me severely 
in my youth, had endeavoured to prevent me from coming 
to the Soudan Campaign, and was indignant that I had suc- 
ceeded in getting there. It was a case of dislike before first 
sight. On my side, I had dealt with his character and cam- 
paigns in two bulky volumes conceived throughout in a faith- 
ful spirit of critical impartiality. It was twelve years before 


I saw him again, when we were formally introduced to each 
other and had a brief talk at the Army Manoeuvres in 1910. 
I got to know him a little at the Malta Conference in 191 2, 
and thenceforward we used to talk over Imperial Defence 
topics when from time to time we met. On these occasions 
I had found him much more affable than I had been led to 
expect from my early impressions or from all I had heard 
about him. In the week before the war we had lunched and 
dined together two or three times, and we had discussed all the 
possibilities so far as we could foresee them. I was glad when 
he was appointed Secretary of State for War, and in those 
early days we worked together on close and cordial terms. 
He consulted me constantly on the political aspects of his 
work, and increasingly gave me his confidence in military 
matters. Admiralty and War Office business were so inter- 
laced that during the whole of the first ten months we were 
in almost daily personal consultation. I cannot forget that 
when I left the Admiralty in May, 191 5, the first and, with 
one exception, the only one of my colleagues who paid me a 
visit of ceremony was the over-burdened Titan whose dis- 
approbation had been one of the disconcerting experiences 
of my youth. 

As is well known, the British armies on mobilisation con- 
sisted of a highly organised expeditionary force of six Regular 
Divisions of Infantry and a Cavalry Division. In addition 
there were two Regular Infantry Divisions, the 7th and 8th, 
which had to be collected from their garrisons all over the 
Empire or formed out of troops surplus to the Expeditionary 
Force at home; and it was decided also to employ two divisions, 
half British and half native, from India. Behind these trained 
forces, unquestionably of a very high order, stood fourteen 
Territorial Divisions and thirteen Mounted Brigades to whom 
the defence of Britain must be confided. These were little 


trained, lightly equipped with artillery, but composed of far- 
sighted and intelligent men who had not waited for the hour 
of danger to make their country's cause their own. In six 
months or, as some thought, in a shorter period, such troops 
could be made to play their part. 

Lord Kitchener now came forward to the Cabinet, on almost 
the first occasion after he joined us, and in soldierly sentences 
proclaimed a series of inspiring and prophetic truths. Every 
one expected that the war would be short; but wars took unex- 
pected courses, and we must now prepare for a long struggle. 
Such a conflict could not be ended on the sea or by sea power 
alone. It could be ended only by great battles on the Conti- 
nent. In these the British Empire must bear its part on a 
scale proportionate to its magnitude and power. We must be 
prepared to put armies of millions in the field and maintain 
them for several years. In no other way could we discharge 
our duty to our allies or to the world. 

These words were received by the Cabinet in silent assent; 
and it is my belief that had Lord Kitchener proceeded to de- 
mand universal national service to be applied as it might be 
required, his request would have been acceded to. He, how- 
ever, proposed to content himself with calling for volunteers, 
and in the first instance to form six new regular divisions. It 
would have been far better to have formed the new volunteers 
upon the cadres of the Territorial Army, each of which could 
have been duplicated or quadruplicated in successive stages. 
But the new Secretary of State had little knowledge of and no 
faith in the British territorial system. The name itself was to 
him a stumbling-block. In the war of 1870 he had been 
present at a battle on the Loire, probably Le Mans, in which 
the key of the position, confided to French territorial troops, 
had been cast away, entailing the defeat of the whole army. 
He dwelt on this incident to me on several occasions, and I 
know it had created fixed impressions in his mind. Vain to 
explain how entirely different were the characters of the troops 


forming the French and British territorial forces — the former 
aged conscripts in their last periods of service; the latter keen 
and ardent youths of strong military predilections. They 
were territorials, and that was the end of it. 

This at the very outset aggravated the difficulties of his 
already gigantic task. He set himself to create the cadres 
first of six, then of twelve, and ultimately of twenty-four 
1 Kitchener Army' divisions, at the same time that the recruits 
were pouring in upon him by the hundred thousand. That 
this vast feat of improvisation was accomplished must certainly 
rank among the wonders of the time. 

The arguments against compulsory service, cogent as they 
no doubt were, were soon reinforced by the double event of 
overwhelming numbers of volunteers and of a total lack of arms 
and equipment. Apart from the exiguous stores held by the 
Regular Army, there was literally nothing. The small scale of 
our military forces had led to equally small factories for war 
material. There were no rifles, there were no guns; and the 
modest supplies of shells and ammunition began immediately 
to flash away with what seemed appalling rapidity. Many 
months must elapse, even if the best measures were taken, 
before new sources of supply even on a moderate scale could 
be opened up. One was now to learn for the first time that it 
took longer to make a rifle than a gun; and rifles were the 
cruellest need of all. We had nothing but staves to put in the 
hands of the eager men who thronged the recruiting stations. 
I ransacked the Fleet and the Admiralty stores and scraped 
together another 30,000 rifles, which literally meant another 
30,000 men in the field. Afloat only the Marines would have 
their rifles; Jack must, in the last resort trust to his cutlass 
as of old. 

At the moment when Lord Kitchener began the formation 
of his first six new army divisions and before the great rush of 
recruits had begun, I offered him the Royal Naval Division, 
which he gladly accepted. Before the war we had foreseen 


the fact that the Navy would on mobilisation have many 
thousands of men in their depots for whom there would be no 
room in any ship of war that we could send to sea. I had 
therefore proposed to the Committee of Imperial Defence in 
1913 the formation of three brigades, one composed of Marines 
and the other two of men of the Royal Naval Volunteer Re- 
serve and of the Royal Fleet Reserve. These brigades it was 
intended to use to assist in home defence in the early stages of 
a war. The cadres were therefore easily formed from the 
available resources. The Marine Brigade was already virtu- 
ally in existence, and it was clear that all three would be ready 
for action long before any of the new troops that were being 
raised. The Naval Volunteers, who longed to serve afloat, 
accepted the new task with many heartburnings but with 
boundless loyalty. Alas, for most of them it proved a fateful 
decision. Few there were of that gallant company that sur- 
vived unscathed. As for their deeds, they will not be for- 
gotten in the history even of these crowded times. 1 

It fell to my lot to prescribe the arrangements for the de- 
parture of the German Ambassador and, eight days later, of 
his Austrian Colleague. Accordingly on the morning of 
August 5 I sent my Naval Secretary Admiral Hood in uniform 
to the German Embassy desiring to know in what manner 
we might facilitate Prince Lichnowsky's wishes and conve- 
nience. While the German mob were insulting and even pelt- 
ing the departing French and British Ambassadors, we set 
ourselves to work with meticulous care to secure the obser- 
vance of every propriety and courtesy towards those for whom 
we were responsible. Prince Lichnowsky has given his own 
record of his ceremonious treatment, which appeared to make 
a marked impression upon his mind. 

1 The minute constituting the Division is printed in Appendix A. 


To Count Mensdorf, the Austrian Ambassador, I wrote as 
follows: — 

August 13, 1914. 

'My Naval Secretary Admiral Hood, who brings this let- 
ter, is instructed to put himself at your disposal in arranging 
for the comfort and convenience of your journey by sea. If 
there is any way in which I can be of service to you at this 
time, you will not I hope fail to command me. 

Although the terrible march of events has swept aside the 
ancient friendship between our countries, the respect and re- 
gard which spring from so many years of personal association 
cannot pass from the hearts of your English friends.' 

The Austrian Ambassador asked that a ship might be pro- 
vided to take him direct to Trieste, and that consideration 
might be shown to a number of unhappy Austrian non-com- 
batants long resident in London who now had to fly the 
country. I therefore arranged that upwards of 200 persons 
should embark in the Ambassador's ship. I felt sure that in 
taking these measures I was acting in accord with what Brit- 
ish dignity required. 

The position of the Admiralty in relation to the Fleet, and 
of the First Lord in relation to his naval colleagues under 
conditions of war requires explanation. The control of the 
main armies was divided between the War Office and General 
Headquarters, but in the Admiralty these functions were in- 
evitably combined to a far larger extent. The Naval Com- 
mander-in-Chief, living with his actual fighting Fleet and al- 
ways ready at a few hours' notice to lead it personally into 
full battle, stood much nearer to the event than his military 
counterpart. The staff which he could accommodate upon 
his flagship, the volume of business which he could transact, 
were necessarily limited by physical conditions. Everything 
must be ready to move at the shortest notice into extreme 


danger, and Staff, office, organisation, Commander-in-Chief, 
might vanish out of existence in an instant. The first duty 
of the Commander-in-Chief was to keep his mind and body 
fit for the supreme task of personally commanding the mighty 
array of ships when in contact with the enemy. The vigilant 
guarding of the Fleet from danger, its training for battle, its 
organisation, its efficiency and the direct personal conduct of 
individual operations were all concentrated in one man. But 
this was enough. It was the duty of the Admiralty so far as 
possible to shield him from all further responsibilities or 
anxieties, to lap him round with securities and assistance 
and to bear all other parts of the great load of war them- 

The Admiralty itself was also in direct contact with the 
event. It not only exercised administrative control over the 
Navy and over the whole of the preparations for strengthening 
and developing the Fleet; it not only determined the strategic 
distribution of our naval power in every theatre; but from 
its wireless masts or by cable it issued information often of a 
vital character to ships in many instances actually in contact 
with the enemy. It was the only place from which the supreme 
view of the naval scene could be obtained. It was the intelli- 
gence centre where all information was received, where alone 
it could be digested, and whence it was transmitted wherever 
required. It moved the fleets, squadrons and flotillas out of 
harbour when information pointed to enemy's activities being 
probable. It specified the minimum forces which should be 
employed in any operation, while leaving the Commander-in- 
Chief free to add to them at his discretion. Apart from actual 
battle or the tactical conduct of particular operations, in 
which the Admiralty never interfered, it decided every im- 
portant question arising out of the conduct of the naval war. 
Robed in the august authority of centuries of naval tradition 
and armed with the fullest knowledge available, the Board 
of Admiralty wielded unchallenged power. 


As these conditions arose naturally and inevitably and will 
certainly be reproduced in one form or another should there 
be a future war, it is of high importance to pierce beneath the 
corporate responsibility of this organism and lay bare how the 
machine actually worked. In practice it resolved itself, and 
could only resolve itself, into the intimate comradeship and 
co-operation of the First Lord and the First Sea Lord, with 
the Chief of the Staff, not at this time a member of the Board, 
standing at their side. By the Letters Patent and Orders in 
Council constituting his office, the First Lord is responsible \ 
to Crown and Parliament for all the business of the Admi- 
ralty. In virtue of this he delegates to an eminent sailor the 
responsibility for its technical and professional conduct. But 
he cannot thus relieve himself either in theory or in fact. He 
is held strictly accountable for all that takes place; for every 
disaster he must bear the blame. The credit of victories 
rightly goes to the commanders who gain them; the burden 
of defeat or miscarriage must be shouldered by the Admi- 
ralty, and the censures of the nation fall primarily upon its 

How then is a civilian Minister appointed for political or 
parliamentary reasons and devoid of authoritative expert 
knowledge, to acquit himself of his duty ? Clearly it depends 
upon the character, temperament and capacity both of the 
First Lord and the First Sea Lord. They must settle it be- 
tween themselves, and if they cannot agree wholeheartedly on 
the momentous problems with which they are confronted in 
swift succession, another combination must be chosen by the 
Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister. I interpreted 
my duty in the following way: — I accepted full responsibility 
for bringing about successful results, and in that spirit I exer- 
cised a close general supervision over everything that was done 
or proposed. Further, I claimed and exercised an unlimited 
power of suggestion and initiative over the whole field, subject 
only to the approval and agreement of the First Sea Lord on 


all operative orders. Right or wrong, that is what I did, and 
it is on that basis that I wish to be judged. 

In practice the difficulties were less than would be imagined. 
Indeed, over long periods of unending crisis and tension the 
machine worked very smoothly. The Second, Third and 
Fourth Sea Lords dropped back upon the outbreak of war into 
the positions the ' Supply Boards' had occupied in the great 
naval wars of the past. They were the providers of men, of 
ships and of stores. They took no part, or only a very occa- 
sional part, in strategic decisions. It was the responsibility 
of the First Sea Lord to keep the Second Sea Lord fully in- 
formed of what was in progress in order that the latter could 
replace him temporarily at a moment's notice. In practice, 
however, both Prince Louis and Lord Fisher worked more 
closely with the Chief of the Staff, and these two presented 
themselves to me always in full accord. 

The constitutional authority of the Board of Admiralty was 
exercised at that time in accordance with long custom by two 
Members of the Board, sitting together with the Secretary of 
the Admiralty. Thus the Admiralty War Group at the begin- 
ning of the struggle consisted of the First Lord, the First Sea 
Lord, the Chief of the Staff and the Secretary. To these were 
added, when the First Sea Lord wished and on particular occa- 
sions, the Second Sea Lord and certain special advisers, of 
whom more anon. We met every day and sometimes twice a 
day, reviewed the whole position and arrived at a united deci- 
sion on every matter of consequence. The execution was con- 
fided to the Chief of the Staff. The Secretary registered, re- 
corded, and, apart from the orders given by the War Staff, took 
the consequential action. Besides our regular meetings the 
First Sea Lord and I consulted together constantly at all hours. 
Within the limits of our agreed policy either he or I gave in 
writing authority for telegrams and decisions which the Chief 
of the Staff might from hour to hour require. Moreover, it 
happened in a large number of cases that seeing what ought 


to be done and confident of the agreement of the First Sea 
Lord, I myself drafted the telegrams and decisions in accor- 
dance with our policy, and the Chief of the Staff took them 
personally to the First Sea Lord for his concurrence before 
dispatch. In addition to these urgent executive matters, the 
regular flow of Admiralty papers passed upwards from the 
First Sea Lord or other Lords to me for decision by minute; 
and I further, by minutes and memoranda, initiated discussion 
and action over the whole area of naval business. 

The advantages and disadvantages of these methods must 
be judged by their general results; but it is instructive to com- 
pare them with those which we now know prevailed at the 
German Admiralty. On the outbreak of war, the Naval 
Secretary of State von Tirpitz, himself an admiral, found him- 
self cut off entirely from the strategical and quasi-tactical 
control of the fleets, to such an extent that he declares 'he 
did not know the naval war plans.' He was confined to purely 
administrative business, and thus charged, he was carried off 
as an adjunct to the Emperor's suite at Great Headquarters. 
The Naval Staff, headed in the first instance by von Pohl, 
alone had the ear of the Emperor and received from the lips 
of the All-Highest indications of his Imperial pleasure. The 
position of Admiral von Tirpitz was therefore most unhappy. 
The Naval Staff warded him off the Emperor as much as possi- 
ble, and persuaded the Emperor to repulse his efforts to break 
in. The Emperor, oppressed with the whole burden of the 
State, gave to the Staff from time to time directions and uttered 
passing expressions which thereafter operated with irresistible 
authority. It is to this state of affairs that Admiral von 
Tirpitz ascribes the paralysis which gripped the German Fleet 
through the first critical months of the naval war. This it 
was, according to him, that lost the opportunity of fighting 
the supreme battle under the least unfavourable conditions, 
enabled the control of the seas to pass into our hands prac- 
tically without a struggle, and secured the uninterrupted 


transport of our armies to the Continent. If our solution 
of the difficult problem of naval war direction was imper- 
fect, so also was that of our enemy. 

A study of the tables and diagrams set out in the Appen- 
dix 1 shows that our known margin of superiority in Home 
Waters was smaller then than at any subsequent moment 
in the war. The Grand Fleet as concentrated in its North- 
ern war station on August 1, 1914, comprised 24 vessels 
classified as ' Dreadnoughts' or better. In addition the battle 
cruiser Invincible was at Queenstown watching the Atlantic, 
the two Lord Nelsons were with the Channel Fleet, and three 
battle cruisers were in the Mediterranean. The Germans 
actually mobilised 16 ships similarly classed. 2 We could 
not be absolutely certain, though we thought it unlikely, 
that they might not have ready two, or even three, more; 
and these of the greatest power. Happily, every British 
ship was ready and in perfect order. None was under repair. 
Our strength for an immediate fleet action was 24 to a certain 
16 and a possible 19. These figures do not, as the tables in 
the Appendix reveal, do justice to the full material strength 
of the British Fleets as a whole, still less to the gun-power 
of the British Line of Battle, which after the Dreadnoughts 
comprised eight King Edwards markedly superior to the next 
eight Germans. But apart from all that may be said on this, 
and of the confidence which it inspired, the fact remains that 
from five to eight Dreadnoughts was all the certain numerical 
superiority we had. There was not much margin here for 
mischance, nor for the percentage of mechanical defects 
which in so large a Fleet has to be expected, and no margin 
whatever for a disaster occasioned by surprise had we been 
unready. To a superficial observer who from the cliffs of 
Dover or Portland had looked down upon a Battle Squadron 

Appendix B. 2 Admiral Scheer, p. 13. 


of six or seven ships, lying in distant miniature below, the 
foundation upon which the British world floated would have 
presented itself in a painfully definite form. If the intelli- 
gence and courage of British seamen were not all that we be- 
lieved them to be; if the workmanship which had built these 
great vessels were not honest and thorough; if our seaman- 
ship or our gunnery had turned out to be inferior; if some 
ghastly novelty or blunder supervened, the battle might be 
very even. 

It is easy to understand how tense were the British naval 
expectations. If the German Navy was ever to fight a bat- 
tle, now at the beginning was its best chance. The German 
Admiralty knew, of course, what ships we had available, and 
that we were mobilised, concentrated and at sea. Even if 
they assumed the extraordinary fact that every one of our 
Dreadnoughts was ready and that not one of them had de- 
veloped a defect, they could fight to German eyes a battle 
1 6 against a maximum 27 — heavy odds from their point of 
view, still heavier when the survey was extended to the whole 
of the Fleets, but yet odds far less heavy than they would 
have to face after six months, after twelve months or at any 
later period. For look at the reinforcements which were 
approaching these two opposing Fleets. They must assume 
that, in addition to completing our own vessels, we should 
requisition every battleship building for a foreign Power in 
our yards, and on this basis seven great ships must join the 
Grand Fleet within three months, and twelve great ships 
within six months, against which only three in three months 
and five in six months could be reckoned on their side, leaving 
the balance in three months at 34 to 19 and in six months at 
39 to 21; and this took, no account of three battle-cruisers in 
the Mediterranean and one (Australia) in the Pacific which 
obviously we could bring home if necessary. 

Here then, was the least unfavourable moment for Germany; 
here was the best chance they would ever see. Was it not also 


the strategic moment? Might they not assume that the 
transportation of the British Army to France would be a 
grave preoccupation for the Admiralty? Was it not clear 
that a victory, even a partial victory, would be more fruitful 
at this juncture than at any other? Forty- two fast German 
merchant cruisers needed only a breathing space to get loose 
and to arm upon the seas, requiring afterwards to be hunted 
down one by one. Might not above all the interruption and 
delay in the transportation of the Army be of real effect in 
the supreme trial of strength on land? The German Staff 
believed in a short war. They were staking everything upon 
a supreme trial of strength on land. Why should not the 
German Fleet be hurled in too and play its part for what it 
was worth in the supreme decision? To what other use 
could it ever be put? 

We therefore looked for open battle on the sea. We ex- 
pected it and we courted it. The news that the two Navies 
were approaching each other to take a decision in blue water 
would have been received in the Fleet with unaffected satisfac- 
tion, and at the Admiralty with composure. We could not send 
our Grand Fleet into the minefields and submarine-infested 
areas of the Heligoland Bight. But had battle been offered 
by the enemy under any conditions which did not put us at a 
serious disadvantage, it would have been at once accepted. 

In fact, however, the sober confidence of the Admiralty 
was based upon calculations of relative naval strength, the 
soundness of which was not disputed by the German Naval 
Staff. Even von Tirpitz, the advocate of action, writes (p. 
356): ' Against an immediate fight was the fact that the whole 
English Fleet was ready for battle when the war broke out 
owing to the test mobilisation, whereas only our active squad- 
rons were ready/ ' Great Britain,' says the Official German 
Naval History, '. . . had secured extensive military advan- 
tages by her test mobilisation and her subsequent measures, 
regardless of the uneasiness necessarily provoked thereby . . . 


which advantage Germany could not counter or overtake.' 
The German Staff felt that even if this was the best chance 
for a trial of strength, it was still a chance so hazardous 
and even so forlorn that it was not worth taking; and their 
Battle Fleet remained hoarded up in harbour for an ignomini- 
ous day, imposing upon the British, no doubt, a continued and 
serious expenditure of our resources for naval purposes, gain- 
ing for Germany substantial advantages of a secondary char- 
acter, but not exercising any decisive influence upon the whole 
course of the war. 

So we waited; and nothing happened. No great event 
immediately occurred. No battle was fought. The Grand 
Fleet remained at sea: the German Fleet did not quit the shelter 
of its harbours. There were no cruiser actions. A German 
minelayer sowing a minefield off Harwich was chased and sunk 
by a flotilla of destroyers led by the Amphion; and the Am- 
phion returning, was blown up on the German minefield. Other- 
wise silence unbroken by cannon brooded over the broad and 
narrow waters. But during that silence and from its first 
moment the sea-power of Great Britain ruled unchallenged 
throughout the world. Every German cruiser in foreign waters 
vanished into the immense spaces of the sea; every German 
merchant ship, from the earliest moment when the entry of 
Britain into the war became apparent, fled for neutral har- 
bours. Seven out of eight, potential commerce destroyers, 
were bottled up without ever a shot being fired. German sea- 
borne trade outside the Baltic ceased to exist from the night 
of August 4. On the other hand, after a few days of hesita- 
tion the swarming mercantile marine of Britain, enocuraged 
by a Government insurance of no more than six per cent., be- 
gan to put to sea; and even before the main armies had met 
in battle on the Continent, the whole vast ocean traffic of the 
British Empire was proceeding with the utmost activity. By 
the end of August the rate of insurance had already fallen to 
six per cent, and the Admiralty was able to announce that of 


the forty- two German liners from whom attacks on trade 
were to be apprehended, eleven were tied up unarmed in 
harbours of the United States watched outside territorial 
limits by British cruisers, six had taken refuge in other neutral 
harbours, where they were either dismantled or observed, 
fourteen were in German ports gripped by the blockade, six 
were held as prizes in British hands, and only five remained 
unaccounted for and unlocated. The fate of these five will 
be recounted later. 

All fell out in these respects, therefore, in broad accordance 
with the views set forth in my memorandum on commerce 
protection of August 23, 19 13, revised in April, 1914, which 
is printed in full in the Appendix for the benefit of the thor- 
ough. 1 None of those gloomy prophecies which had formed 
the staple of so many debates and articles, that our merchant 
ships would be hunted from the seas by German raiders, that 
scores of additional British cruisers would be required for 
commerce protection, that British merchant ships once safe 
in harbour would not venture to sea, materialised; and they 
might be relegated to the limbo of exploded alarms. The 
three great naval dangers which had bulked most largely in 
our mkids in the years before the war — first, the danger of 
surprise of the Fleet; second, the Mine danger; third, the pa- 
ralysis of our seaborne trade — rolled away behind us like giant 
waves which a ship has finally surmounted. 

More than a hundred years had passed since the British 
Navy had been called upon to face an emergency of the first 
magnitude. If a hundred years hence, in similar circum- 
stances, it is found equally ready, we shall have no more 
reason to complain of our descendants than they have reason 

to complain of us. 

* * * * * 

It is time to return to the Mediterranean. 
Admiral Souchon, the German Commander, having outdis- 
1 Appendix C. I hope it may be read. — W. S. C. 


tanced our shadowing cruisers in the darkness of the night, 
pursued his course to Messina, where he arrived with the 
Goeben and Breslau on the morning of August 5. He had 
already received, as we now know, a telegram sent from Nauen 
at 1.35 a.m. on the preceding day by the German Admiralty. 
This message gave him all-important information. It stated 
that an alliance had been concluded between Germany and 
Turkey, and directed him to proceed to Constantinople im- 
mediately. Of this treaty we knew nothing. All our reports 
were of an entirely different tenor; nor was it till long after- 
wards that we learnt the true attitude of Turkey at this hour. 

On arrival at Messina the Goeben and Breslau began to 
coal from German colliers. This occupied the whole of the 
day, the whole of the night and the greater part of the next 
day, the 6th. Exactly thirty-six hours elapsed before the 
Goeben moyed. Meanwhile the light cruiser Gloucester, 
watching off the Southern exit of the Straits of Messina, re- 
ported at 3.35 p.m. on August 5 to Sir Berkeley Milne that 
the strength of the wireless signals she was taking in indicated 
that the Goeben must be at Messina. 

The British Commander-in-Chief had left the Malta Chan- 
nel in his flagship the Inflexible after midnight of August 4, 
and at about 11 a.m. on August 5 he had assembled all his 
three battle cruisers and two light cruisers off Pantellaria isl- 
and, midway between Sicily and the African coast. 2 Accord- 
ing to his own published account 3 he had learned on the 4th 
that the German mail steamer General was remaining at 
Messina at the disposition of the Goeben. He therefore be- 
lieved throughout the whole of the 5th that 'the Goeben, 
Breslau and General were all at Messina. ' His belief was 

One of his battle cruisers, the Indomitable, had to coal. 
He sent her to Biserta. This was an important decision. 

2 See map to face p. 274. 
3 The Flight of the Goeben, Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne. 


Considering that he believed that the Goeben was at Messina, 
and that he intended himself to watch to the Northward with 
two battle cruisers, some authorities have held that it would 
have been a sensible precaution to let this third ship coal at 
Malta, where facilities were certain and instant, and whence 
she could so easily move to close the Southern exit from Mes- 
sina, or join Rear-Admiral Troubridge in the mouth of the 
Adriatic, as that officer had been led to expect. 1 By sending 
the Indomitable to coal at Malta, he could have placed two 
battle cruisers watching the Northern exit and one at the 
Southern. But the Commander-in-Chief decided to keep all 
three battle cruisers together in his own hand and to patrol 
off the Western end of Sicily between Sardinia and Biserta. 
The Southern exit was therefore left completely open to the 
Goeben: and a severe action was reserved for Rear- Admiral 
Troubridge if, as seemed likely, she ran up the Adriatic. 

At 5 p.m. on the 5th Sir Berkeley Milne received the signal 
sent by the Gloucester at 3.35 p.m. reporting the presence of 
the Goeben at Messina. Here was certain confirmation of his 
belief. He was at this moment about 100 miles West of Sicily. 
He continued however to cruise with his two ships between 
Sicily and Sardinia, and as late as the evening of August 6, 
his orders to the Indomitable were still to join him thereabouts. 
He did this because he considered that placing all three battle 
cruisers in this position was his surest way of carrying out the 
instructions of the Admiralty telegram of July 30 about aid- 
ing the French in the transport of their African army. That 
it was one method of carrying out these orders cannot be 
disputed, and the Admiral has set out in his book the reasons 
which led him to adopt it. The superior speed of the Goeben 
made it necessary, he states, if he were to intercept her, that 
he should stand a long way off and have timely notice of her 
approach. To place his whole force in this way between her 
and the French transports was, he argues, the best chance of 
1 See Official Naval History, pp. 60, 61/ 


catching the Goeben if she tried to attack them. He reported 
his intended dispositions late on the 4th to the Admiralty, 
whose only comment upon them was, ' Watch over the Adri- 
atic should be maintained for the double purpose of prevent- 
ing the Austrians from coming out or the Germans from en- 
tering.' The exceedingly prompt manner in which the Goeben 
had been found, although in the open sea, on the 4th had 
given the Admiralty the feeling that the Admiral on the spot 
had a grip of the situation and needed no further directions. 

Sir Berkeley Milne had not, however, succeeded in com- 
municating with the French Admiral, although he had made 
repeated attempts by wireless and had sent the Dublin to 
Biserta with a letter. He did not know where the French 
Fleet or the French transports were. He did not tell the Ad- 
miralty this. The Admiralty for their part, after the general 
telegram of August 4 enjoining immediate consultation with 
the French, assumed that the two Commanders-in-Chief in 
the Mediterranean were acting in concert. They did not 
therefore ask the French for any information, nor was any 
volunteered by the French Admiralty. Any inquiry addressed 
to Paris would have elicited the fact that the French had 
changed their plans and that no transports were yet at sea. 
All parties were on this point to some extent in fault. 

Meanwhile the British Ambassador in Rome was endeav- 
ouring to tell the Admiralty as soon as the pressure on the 
wires allowed that the Goeben was at Messina. The news 
did not reach London till 6 p.m. on August 5. The Admi- 
ralty passed it without comment, though with some delay, to 
Sir Berkeley Milne, who already knew from other sources. 
It is a fair criticism on the Admiralty that they did not im- 
mediately they knew the Goeben was at Messina authorise 
the British ships to follow her into the Straits. The point 
was not put to me either by the First Sea Lord or the Chief 
of the Staff, and as I had not myself been concerned in initi- 
ating or drafting the telegram about rigidly respecting Italian 


neutrality, it was not specially in my mind. Had it been put 
to me I should at once have consented. This was no petty 
incident and the prize was well worth the risk of vexing the 
Italians. In fact, permission to chase through the Straits was 
given by the Admiralty unasked to Sir Berkeley Milne, as 
soon as it was realised that the Goeben was escaping unblocked 
to the Southward. It was then too late. 

In pursuance of the orders he had received from Germany, 
Admiral Souchon with the Goeben and Breslau, having at 
length completed coaling and made his will, steamed out of 
Messina harbour at 5 p.m. on August 6, cleared for action and 
with his bands playing. He no doubt expected to encounter 
at least one and possibly two of the British battle cruisers as 
soon as he was outside territorial waters. In view of the fact 
that, as he was aware, his position must have been accurately 
known to the British Commander-in-Chief for many hours, 
this assumption was not unreasonable. Unhappily, as has 
been described, every one of the three British battle cruisers 
was otherwise engaged. Thus when the German Admiral 
rounded the Southern point of Italy and turned Eastward, 
the only three antagonists whose combination of power and 
speed he had to dread were already far astern. 

Still there was the British armoured cruiser squadron watch- 
ing the Adriatic. This squadron consisted of four good ships, 
viz. Defence, Warrior, Duke of Edinburgh and Black Prince. 
It was commanded by Rear-Admiral Troubridge, who had 
also under his orders eight destroyers, and was being joined 
by the light cruiser Dublin and two more destroyers from 
Malta. It is necessary to restate the facts of this officer's 

On the assumption — which was dominant — that the Goeben 
would make for Pola, Admiral Troubridge was well placed for 
meeting her. It was not until he heard from the Gloucester 
that she had turned South and was persistently steering on a 
South-Easterly course that any new decision was required 


from him. He received no orders to quit his station from Sir 
Berkeley Milne. He was in constant hope of receiving a 
battle cruiser. But Admiral Troubridge decided to act on 
his own responsibility. Eight minutes after midnight of 
August 6 (i.e. 0.08, August 7) he gave orders to his four 
cruisers and his eight destroyers to steam Southward at full 
speed for the purpose of intercepting the Goeben. He also 
signalled to the Dublin (Captain John Kelly) at that moment 
coming from Malta to join him with the two extra destroyers, 
to head her off. He reported his decision to the Commander- 
in-Chief. Thus at midnight August 6-7 sixteen British ves- 
sels were converging upon the Goeben and Breslau and were 
in positions from which they could hardly fail to intercept 
the enemy shortly after daylight. At 3.50 a.m., however, after 
further reflection and having received no orders or reply from 
Sir Berkeley Milne, Admiral Troubridge became convinced 
that he could not hope to engage the Goeben under the ad- 
vantageous conditions of the half light of dawn, and that in 
an action fought in broad waters in full daylight, his four 
ships would be sunk one after another by the Goeben, who all 
the time would keep outside the range — 16,000 yards — of the 
British 9.2-inch guns. This is thought by some naval officers 
to be an extreme view. The limited ammunition of the 
Goeben would have had to have been wonderfully employed 
to have sunk all four British armoured cruisers seriatim at 
this long range. 1 Moreover, if the Goeben and Breslau had 
become involved in an action, it is hard to believe that none 
of the sixteen British cruisers and destroyers which were 
available could have closed in upon them and attacked them 
with gun or torpedo. All the destroyers were capable of reach- 
ing the enemy and could have found their opportunity to at- 

1 At the Falklands the two British battle cruisers used up nearly 
three-quarters of their ammunition to sink only two weaker antago- 
nists, using 12-inch guns against 8'8-inch. The Goeben single-handed 
would have had to have sunk four, using 11 -inch guns against 9' 2-inch. 


tack. It would have been indeed a prodigious feat on the 
part of the Germans to dispose of so many antagonists at once. 
However, the Admiral came to the conclusion that the Goeben 
was 'a superior force ' which by his instructions, passed to 
him by the Commander-in-Chief, he was not to engage. And 
in this conclusion he has been sustained by a British naval 

He thereupon desisted from his attempt to intercept the 
Goeben, turned his ships and destroyers and entered the har- 
bour of Zante about 10 a.m. preparatory to resuming his 
watch in the Adriatic. The Dublin and her two destroyers 
having asked and been refused permission to make a day- 
light attack, had attempted to intercept the Goeben before 
dawn, but did not succeed in finding her in the darkness. 

By 6 o'clock therefore on the morning of August 7 the 
Goeben, already the fastest capital unit in the Mediterranean, 
was steaming on an unobstructed course for the Dardanelles, 
carrying with her for the peoples of the East and Middle East 
more slaughter, more misery and more ruin than has ever 
before been borne within the compass of a ship. 

Thus of all the British vessels which were or could have 
been brought within effective distance, none did anything 
useful excepting only the two light cruisers Dublin and 
Gloucester, commanded, as it happened, by two brothers. 
The Dublin (Captain John Kelly) as we have seen did all in 
her power to place herself athwart the enemy's course and to 
fight him by night or day; and the Gloucester (Captain W. A. 
Howard Kelly) hung on to the heels of the Goeben till late in 
the afternoon, in extreme danger and with the utmost tenac- 
ity, and only relinquished the chase under the direct orders 
of the Commander-in-Chief. 

Various explanations have been offered for the failure to 
bring the Goeben to action after the declaration of war, and 
every telegram sent by the Admiralty was searched to find 
phrases which could justify or palliate what had occurred. 


For instance, it was pleaded that the sentence in the Admi- 
ralty telegram to the Commander-in-Chief of July 30, 'Do 
not at this stage be brought to action against superior forces 
except in combination with the French as part of a general 
battle/ justified Admiral Troubridge in refraining from at- 
tacking the Goeben with his four armoured cruisers. On this 
it may be observed that this sentence is clearly shown by the 
context to refer to the Austrian Fleet against whose battle- 
ships it was not desirable that our three battle cruisers should 
be engaged without battleship support. Secondly it was con- 
tained in a telegram giving the Commander-in-Chief general 
directions for the strategic conduct of the naval campaign in 
the Mediterranean. It was not intended by the Admiralty 
to govern tactical action. The words, however, acquired a 
more particular significance when they were repeated — as 
they were — by the Commander-in-Chief to his subordinate 
Admiral Troubridge. But even so it ought not to have been 
treated as a veto upon British ships ever engaging superior 
forces however needful the occasion. This was an unreason- 
able reading of the Admiralty instructions. On such a read- 
ing both the Gloucester and the Dublin were guilty of dis- 
obedience. On such a reading, pedantically construed, no 
individual British ship in the Mediterranean would have been 
allowed to fight a vessel stronger by a single gun. Nobody 
ever honestly supposed that such doctrines were being laid 
down by the Admiralty. Moreover, the self-same telegram 
specifically emphasised the importance of bringing the Goeben 
to action and singled out that vessel particularly among all 
the hostile forces in the Mediterranean. No such conception 
of his duty was taken by either of the Captains Kelly. Nor 
was it the view of Sir Berkeley Milne himself; for he disap- 
proved strongly of Admiral Troubridge's abandonment of the 

Again it has been urged that the sentence, 'Your first task 
should be to aid the French in the transportation of their 


African army/ imposed upon Sir Berkeley Milne the duty of 
placing all three of his battle cruisers west of Sicily. Thus 
wrested from their context and from the whole series of Ad- 
miralty telegrams, these directions have been made to serve 
as an explanation. Against them must be read the full text. 
On July 30, 'Your first task should be to aid the French in the 
transportation of their African army by covering and if possi- 
ble bringing to action individual fast German ships, particu- 
larly "Goeben." ' * And again, on August 2, 'Goeben must be 
shadowed by two battle cruisers.' And again on August 3, 
'Goeben is your objective. Follow her and shadow her wher- 
ever she goes, and be ready to act on declaration of war, which 
appears probable and imminent.' And again on August 4, 
'Good. Hold her. War imminent.' 

Certainly if the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean 
had in reliance upon these dominant and reiterated instruc- 
tions managed to put one battle cruiser each side of the 
Straits of Messina, instead of all on one side, and if in conse- 
quence he had brought the Goeben to action, as would have 
been inevitable, and if he had thus protected the French 
transports in the most effectual manner by fighting the 
Goeben, no one could have found fault with him on the score 
that he had exceeded his orders. 

The reader is now in a position to form his own judgment 
on this affair. I have indicated plainly the point on which 
the Admiralty was in fault, namely, in not spontaneously 
lifting the prohibition to enter Italian waters the moment we 
learned the Goeben was at Messina. The conduct of Rear- 
Admiral Troubridge was subsequently investigated by a 
Court of Inquiry composed of the three Commanders-in-Chief 
of Portsmouth, Devonport and Chatham. As the result of 
their report, he was tried by court-martial at Portland in 
September and honourably acquitted of all blame. His 
career in the Navy was, however, at an end, the general feel- 
1 The italics are mine. — W. S. C. 


ing of the Service not accepting the view that the four ar- 
moured cruisers and other vessels at his disposal ought not 
to have fought the Goeben. In view of his acquittal he was 
appointed to take charge of the naval guns which we sent 
with a mission to Serbia. In this capacity his work was dis- 
tinguished and successful. He gained the confidence and re- 
spect of the Serbians and their Government, and he proved on 
numerous occasions that whatever might be thought of his 
reasons for not attacking the Goeben, want of personal courage 
was not among them. 

After studying the reports of Sir Berkeley Milne and other 
officers concerned, the First Sea Lord recorded the opinion 
that Admiral Milne had taken the best measures with the 
force at his disposal, that his dispositions were the proper 
ones, and that they were successful inasmuch as they pre- 
vented the Germans from carrying out their primary role 
of interrupting French troops crossing from Africa. On this 
I find that my sole comment was (August 27): 'The explana- 
tion is satisfactory; the result unsatisfactory/ Thereafter on 
August 30, 1914, the Admiralty issued a statement that: 
'The conduct and dispositions of Sir Berkeley Milne in re- 
gard to the German vessels Goeben and Breslau have been the 
subject of the careful examination of the Board of Admiralty 
with the result that their Lordships have approved the mea- 
sures taken by him in all respects.' 

In all this story of the escape of the Goeben one seems to 
see the influence of that sinister fatality which at a later stage 
and on a far larger scale was to dog the enterprise against 
the Dardanelles. The terrible 'Ifs' accumulate. If my first 
thoughts on July 27 of sending the New Zealand to the Medi- 
terranean had materialised; if we could have opened fire on 
the Goeben during the afternoon of August 4; if we had been 
less solicitous for Italian neutrality; if Sir Berkeley Milne had 
sent the Indomitable to coal at Malta instead of Biserta; if 
the Admiralty had sent him direct instructions when on the 


night of the 5th they learned where the Goeben was; if Rear- 
Admiral Troubridge in the small hours of August 7 had not 
changed his mind; if the Dublin and her two destroyers had 
intercepted the enemy during the night of the 6th~7th — the 
story of the Goeben would have ended here. There was, how- 
ever, as it turned out, one more chance of annulling the doom 
of which she was the bearer. That chance, remote though it 
was, the Fates were vigilant to destroy. 

At 1 a.m. on August 8 Sir Berkeley Milne, having collected 
and coaled his three battle cruisers at Malta, set out at a 
moderate speed on an Easterly course in pursuit of the Goeben. 
At this juncture the Fates moved a blameless and punctili- 
ous Admiralty clerk to declare war upon Austria. The code 
telegram ordering hostilities to be commenced against Austria 
was inadvertently released without any authority whatever. 
The mistake was repaired a few hours later; but the first 
message reached Sir Berkeley Milne at 2 p.m. on August 8 
when he was half-way between Sicily and Greece. His orig- 
inal war orders, had prescribed that in the event of a war with 
Austria he should in the first instance concentrate his fleet 
near Malta, and faithful to these instructions he turned his 
ships about and desisted from the pursuit of the Goeben. 
Twenty-four hours were thus lost before orders could reach 
him to resume it. But the Goeben herself had come to a stand- 
still. Admiral Souchon was cruising irresolutely about the 
Greek islands endeavouring to make sure that he would be 
admitted by the Turks to the Dardanelles. He dallied thirty- 
six hours at Denusa and was forced to use his tell-tale wireless 
on several occasions. It was not till the evening of the 10th 
that he entered the Dardanelles and the Curse descended ir- 
revocably upon Turkey and the East. 

From the 9th to the 22nd of August the Army was crossing 
the Channel. This was a period of great anxiety to us. All 


the most fateful possibilities were open. We were bound to 
expect a military descent upon our coasts with the intention of 
arresting or recalling our Army, or a naval raid into the Chan- 
nel to cut down the transports, or a concentrated submarine 
attack upon these vessels crowded with our troops. The 
great naval battle might begin at any moment, either inde- 
pendently or in connection with any of these operations. It 
was a period of extreme psychological tension. 

In continued anxiety lest some capital mistake should be 
made through a different sense of proportion prevailing in the 
Fleet and at the Admiralty, I drew up the following apprecia- 
tion which with the concurrence of the First Sea Lord was sent 
officially to Sir John Jellicoe. 

Admiralty to Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleets. August 8, 
1914. Sent 10.15 p.m. 

1. To-morrow, Sunday, the Expeditionary Force begins to 
cross the Channel. During that week the Germans have the 
strongest incentives to action. They know that the Expedi- 
tionary Force is leaving, and that the mobilisation and training 
of the Territorial Army is incomplete. They may well argue 
that a raid or raids now upon the East Coast would interrupt, 
confuse and probably delay the departure of the Army, and 
further that it might draw the Grand Fleet rapidly South to 
interfere with the landing. 

2. Alternatively, or simultaneously, they may attempt to 
rush the Straits and interrupt the passage of the Army. It 
seems in the last degree improbable that if they did so they 
would use their modern Battle Fleet. Their principle has 
been, according to all we know about them, to aim at a general 
battle with the British Fleet when by attrition and accident 
our margin of superiority has been reduced. They may be 
assumed to know our general dispositions in the South, and 
the strong and numerous Submarine flotillas of which we and 
the French dispose. They must apprehend that the Straits 
are mined. Since the distance across the Channel can be 
covered in 6 to 8 hours, 3 hours' notice of their approach would 
enable every transport to reach safety. To force the Straits 
and enter the Channel with their best ships means the certain 


loss of units which it is vital to them to preserve if they are 
ever to fight a general battle. And this sacrifice, with all its 
hazards, would lead them only into an Anglo-French lake, 
lined with fortified harbours and infested with torpedo craft, 
at the end of which lies the Atlantic Ocean, and the Grand 
Fleet — wherever it is — certainly between them and home. If 
this plan were followed by the Germans, we should mine the 
Straits of Dover heavily behind them, and leave you to engage 
them at your convenience. 

3. A far more probable German plan would be (A) to send a 
fast division to rush the Straits and attack the transports, 
while at the same time (B) making raids on the East Coast to 
create a diversion. Our dispositions in the Channel and its 
approaches provide fully for (A). With regard to (B), it is 
not considered that more than 10,000 men can be spared from 
Germany at present for raids. Such raid or raids would incon- 
venience the military arrangements, but the Army is ready to 
meet the raiders if they land. Their Lordships would wish to 
emphasise that it is not part of the Grand Fleet 7 s duty to prevent 
such raids, but to deal with the enemy's Battle Fleet. The 
enemy's older ships will possibly be used to cover either one 
or more raids. Their main Battle Fleet may be in rear to sup- 
port them. They may expect you to come direct to prevent 
the raid, and therefore may lay one or more lines of mines 
across your expected course, or use their Submarines for the 
same purpose. Whereas if you approach from an Easterly or 
North-Easterly direction, i.e. behind them, you would cut the 
German Battle Fleet from its base, the landed raiders from all 
reinforcements, and you would approach by a path along which 
the chance of meeting mines would be sensibly reduced. In 
our view therefore you should ignore the raid or raids, and 
work by a circuitous route so as to get between the enemy's 
fleet, or covering force, and home. It would seem undesirable 
to come South of latitude 57 until news of a raid has been 
actually received; and even then the possibility of the German 
Battle Fleet being still in the Heligoland Bight, i.e. behind 
you, cannot be excluded. 

This appreciation of the situation is not intended to hamper 
your discretion to act according to circumstances. 

The naval dispositions by which the passage of the Army 
was covered have been fully described in the Official History of 


the War and in other Service works. The northern approaches 
to the Straits of Dover were patrolled by cruiser squadrons 
and by flotillas from Harwich and the Thames. The Straits 
of Dover were minutely watched by the British and French 
Destroyer flotillas of the Dover cordon and by the Submarine 
flotillas of Commodore Keyes. Behind these there was con- 
stituted on August 7 the Channel Fleet, comprising nineteen 
battleships of the 5th, 7th and 8th Battle Squadrons, now all 
fully mobilised. This fleet, having assembled under the com- 
mand of Admiral Burney at Portland, cruised in readiness for 
battle at the western end of the Channel at such distances from 
the Dover cordon as its commander might judge convenient. 
The western entrance to the Channel was guarded by other 
cruiser squadrons. 

During the first few days of the transportation no great 
numbers of troops were crossing the Channel, but from the 
12th to the 17th the bulk of the Army was in transit, and the 
strategic tension reached its climax. Until this period was 
reached the Grand Fleet was kept in its northern station and 
was even permitted to cruise northwards of the Orkneys, but 
on August 12 Admiral Jellicoe was directed to re-enter the 
North Sea and to cruise southward into a position of effec- 
tive proximity. 

Admiralty to Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleets. 
August 12, 1914. 

We cannot wholly exclude the chance of an attempt at a 
landing during this week on a large scale supported by High 
Sea Fleet. In addition to the possibilities explained in Ad- 
miralty appreciation of situation sent you 8th, extraor- 
dinary silence and inertia of enemy may be prelude to serious 
enterprises. Our view remains as expressed in appreciation, 
and even if larger landing forces were employed the general 
principles of action would remain unaltered except that the 
urgency of interrupting the landing would of course be greater. 
You ought however to be nearer the theatre of decisive action, 


as we originally contemplated, and now that you have shaken 
off the submarine menace, or as soon as you can do so, it would 
appear necessary to bring the Fleet to the Eastward of the 
Orkneys passing either N. or S. of the Shetlands keeping well 
out of sight of land and stopping traffic if necessary. Cruiser 
sweeps to the South and South-east should be made as con- 
venient. Acknowledge this immediately on receipt. 

During the three days of heaviest transportation, August 15, 
16 and 17, the Heligoland Bight was closely blockaded by sub-' 
marines and destroyers, supported between the Horn Reef and 
the Dogger Bank by the whole of the Grand Fleet. Thus bat- 
tle in open water was offered to the German Navy during the 
three days when their inducements to fight were at their maxi- 
mum. But except for an occasional submarine, no sign be- 
trayed the existence of the enemy's naval power. 

All went well. Not a ship was sunk, not a man was 
drowned: all arrangements worked with the utmost smooth- 
ness and punctuality. The Army concentration was com- 
pleted three days in advance of Sir John French's original 
undertaking to General Lanrezac; 1 and with such secrecy 
was the whole of this vast operation enshrouded, that on the 
evening of August 21, only a few hours before the British 
cavalry patrols were in contact with the Germans, General 
von Kluck, commanding the First German Army in Belgium, 
received from the Supreme Command no better information 
than the following: — 

'A landing of British troops at Boulogne and their advance 
from about Lille must be reckoned with. It is believed that 
no landing of British troops on a big scale has yet taken 
place.' 2 

Three days later the whole British Army was fighting the 
battle of Mons. 

1 General Lanrezac — ' Le plan de Campagne Frangais,' p. iio. 

2 General von Kluck — ' The March on Paris,' p. 38. 


The silence at sea was accompanied by a suspense on land. 
Except for the over-running and trampling down of Liege, 
and a French raid into Alsace, only the covering troops of the 
great armies were in contact. There was a long, stifling 
pause before the breaking of the storm. All over Europe 
millions of men, pouring along the roads and railroads, flow- 
ing across the Rhine bridges, draining from the farthest 
provinces of the wide Russian Empire, streaming northwards 
from Southern France and Northern Africa, were forming in 
the immense masses of manoeuvre or the lines of battle. 
There was plenty to fill the newspapers; but to those who un- 
derstood what was coming, the fortnight with which this 
chapter is concerned seemed oppressed by a deathly hush. 


August 20-September 6, 19 14 

'For while the dagger gleam'd on high 
ReePd soul and sense, reel'd brain and eye.' 

Scott, 'The Lady of the Lake,' Canto V-XVL 

Germany's Choice: Prudence or Audacity — Her Dangerous Com- 
promise — The French Offensive School — One View of French 
Strategy — Plan XVII — Its Complete Failure — The Despatch of 
the Sixth Division — The Morrow of Mons — Fears for the Chan- 
nel Ports — The Lloyd George of Agadir — The British Base 
Shifted to St. Nazaire — Some expedients — The Retreat — A Press 
Communique — The Eve of the Marne — The Russian Pressure — 
Lord Kitchener's Journey to Paris — Correspondence with Sir 
John French — A Day on the Aisne — The Sea Flank Project — 
Lord Kitchener's Wise Restraint. 

PRUDENCE and audacity may be alternated but not 
A mixed. Having gone to war it is vain to shrink from 
facing the hazards inseparable from it. At the outset of the 
war Germany had a choice between a prudent and an auda- 
cious strategy. She could either have fallen, as she did, upon 
France with her main strength and held off Russia mean- 
while, or have fallen upon Russia with ample forces and stood 
on the defensive against France. If she had taken the sec- 
ond course she would have said to France and to Europe: 
"This is an Eastern quarrel. Let us endeavour to limit the 
area of the conflict. We are going to rescue our ally Austria 
from Russia. We have no dispute with France. We have 
no intention of invading French territory. Unless you attack 
us, we shall not touch you: if you attack us, we shall have 
to defend ourselves. As for Belgium, it is sacred to us." The 



German Government would then have appealed to England 
to help to localise the struggle, and a well-meaning effort 
would most probably have been made with that object. 
France would therefore have had to choose between deserting 
her ally and invading Germany in cold blood, alone. Neither 
Belgium nor England would have entered the war. By the 
winter the Russian armies would have been torn to pieces in 
the East, and France brought to a standstill before barbed 
wire and entrenchments on German soil in the West. France 
would therefore have appeared the aggressor, who had made 
a treaty with Russia in order to get back her lost provinces, 
and then in pursuance of this treaty had flagrantly invaded 
Germany and had been arrested by the defenders of the 
Fatherland. On the other hand, the moment Russia was 
beaten, overwhelming German forces could be brought to 
bear on France. And if in this second stage the Germans 
had chosen to violate the neutrality of Belgium, Britain, if 
she had intervened at all, would have intervened divided and 
too late. All these tremendous political-strategic considera- 
tions were present in the minds of British Ministers, and Mr. 
Lloyd George in particular would never believe, until the 
mass invasion of Belgium was an actual fact, that the Ger- 
mans would be so unwise as to ignore them. Ludendorff, 
however, tells us that the German General Staff rejected such 
a plan for one decisive reason, namely, that it involved a long 
war. This answer seems insufficient. 

Germany had long and deliberately committed herself to 
the alternative plan of the invasion of France through Bel- 
gium with the intention of destroying the French armies in a 
few weeks. This was a decision of extreme hazard and 
audacity; flying in the face of world opinion, openly assuming 
the role of the aggressor, committing a hideous wrong against 
Belgium, incurring probably Belgian resistance and possibly, 
as they must apprehend, British intervention. But having 
embarked on such an audacious adventure, the Germans failed 


to concentrate wholly upon it. In order to secure victory in 

a few weeks in France before England could develop her 

strength, they must be prepared to endure serious injuries in 

the East. The German force opposing Russia was therefore 

rightly cut down to the absolute minimum. But to carry 

their plan through in its integrity more territory should have 

been yielded to the Russian invaders, and in no circumstances 

should any reinforcements have been transferred from the 

West to the Eastern front until the decision in the West had 

been reached. 

* * * * * 

I had throughout the greatest misgivings of an impulsive 
offensive by the French based, not on calm calculations of 
numbers, distances and times, but upon 'the psychology of 
the French nation/ 'the best traditions of the French Army/ 
'the natural elan of the poiluJ I knew, of course, that the 
offensive school held the dominance in France. One could 
see its reflection in the language of our military men, though 
these were strongly anchored to modern realities by unpleas- 
ant recollections of the Boer War. Without knowing with 
any certainty or exactness the French plan, I dreaded, when- 
ever I reflected on the problem, an impetuous onset followed 
by a shattering shock. 

As between the two nations, France and Germany, it would 
be natural for the stronger to be left to take the offensive and 
invade the weaker. Four or five marches from the frontier 
the task of the invader becomes very difficult and may be 
made more difficult still. The defenders have superior com- 
munications from flank to flank and from front to rear; they 
fall back on carefully-chosen, well-prepared positions and on 
ample magazines of munitions and supplies. The invader 
finds himself in a hostile country, surrounded by spies, with 
bridges and roads, especially lateral roads, broken and disor- 
ganised, and important junctions defended by fortresses still 
in the hands of the enemy. He is thus forced to deliver the 


first great battle on ground selected and prepared by his op- 
ponent. It is surely at this moment, and after this first shock 
has been sustained under the best conditions, that the oppor- 
tunity for the offensive energy of the weaker Power presents 

If the Germans invaded France it seemed to me in those 
days that the French would be wise to act as follows: — 

They should entrench themselves conveniently along or 
near their frontier, constructing a vast system of field forti- 
fications, open and concealed, sham and real, according to 
every device known at that time; and in these positions they 
should await the first shock of the Germans. I believed that 
the Germans did not appreciate the tremendous power of 
modern weapons, particularly the rifle. I based this on what 
I had seen of their methods in their manoeuvres of 1906 and 
1909 and on what I had learned about rifle fire in the South 
African War. The Germans were the challengers; they were 
the stronger, but not, in my opinion, strong enough for the 
continuous storming and reduction of well-fortified positions 
held by French regular armies or by British troops. I did 
not, of course, contemplate that the French would dig one 
uniform line along the whole length of their frontier. They 
would naturally treat the problem selectively, here resisting 
with their utmost strength, there allowing the enemy to pene- 
trate and bulge into unpromising country or into some well- 
considered tactical area only to be brought up by lines fifteen 
to twenty miles in rear. They would not hesitate to sell the 
Germans piece by piece a certain amount of ground for dis- 
proportionate losses. The universal tactical object to be pur- 
sued in this first phase should be to force the Germans to 
expose themselves in the open to the rifle and artillery fire of 
well-trained Frenchmen. 

It would be reasonable to hope that a process of this kind, 
continued for three or four days along the whole front, would 
have resulted in far heavier losses to the Germans than to the 


French, and that a larger proportion of the German than of 
the French armies would have been deployed and extended. 
One hoped in this way to see the French take toll of the man- 
hood of the German nation at the outset of the war, as the 
British Army did on a small scale at Mons and Le Cateau. 
This would in no way have excluded tactical action by means 
of counter-attacks wherever opportunities presented them- 
selves. Meanwhile at least two-fifths of the French armies 
should have been held back in a great mass of manoeuvre, 
north-east of Paris. With this mass of manoeuvre I hoped 
the British Army would have been associated. This general 
disposition should not have been compromised by any effort 
to proceed to the relief of Belgium, except with cavalry and 
small detachments to encourage the Belgians and to gain 
time. I was, of course, firmly persuaded, in common with 
the British General Staff, that the main German encircling 
movement would take place through Belgium and would com- 
prise considerable forces west of the Belgian Meuse. I hoped 
that if this movement eventuated and prolonged itself in 
great strength, the French would find an opportunity of using 
the greater part of their armies of manoeuvre against it after 
the Germans had been well punished along the whole front. 
At any rate, that is the sort of way in which I thought then, 
before the event, and think still, the French Command might 
best have safeguarded the vital interests of France. 

Very different, however, were the ideas of General Joffre. 
The famous 'Plan XVII' consisted in a general offensive in 
an easterly and north-easterly direction by four French 
armies, with the last remaining army in reserve behind their 
centre. It was based upon an ardent faith that the French 
right would penetrate deeply into Alsace and Lorraine and an 
obstinate disbelief that the French left would be turned by a 
German movement west of the Meuse through Belgium. 
Both these calculations were to be completely falsified by the 
first events of the war. From the very earliest days it was 


clear that the views which the British General Staff had con- 
sistently held, since 191 1, of a great German turning move- 
ment through Belgium, probably on both sides of the Belgian 
Meuse, were correct. Why should the Germans with their 
eyes open throw first Belgium and then the British Empire 
into the scales against them unless for an operation of supreme 
magnitude? Besides, there were the evidences of their long 
preparations — camps, railways and railway sidings — which 
the British Staff under Sir John French and Sir Henry Wilson 
had so minutely studied. Lastly, reported with much accu- 
racy from day to day, there came the enormous troop move- 
ments on the German right, towards and into Belgium on 
both sides of the Meuse. Before the end of the first week in 
August General Lanrezac, the Commander of the left French 
Army (the Fifth), was raising loud cries of warning and alarm 
about the menace to his left, and indeed his rear, if he carried 
out the role assigned to him and attacked as ordered in a 
north-easterly direction. By the end of the second week the 
presence of the accumulating masses of the German right 
could no longer be denied by the French High Command, 
and certain measures, tardy and inadequate, were taken to 
cope with it. Nevertheless, after the raid of a corps and a 
cavalry division into Alsace on the 13th August, General 
Joffre began his offensive into Lorraine with the two armies 
of the French right, the centre armies conforming a few days 
later; and up till the evening of the 18th General Lanrezac 
and the left French army were still under orders to advance 
north-east. Three days later this same army was defending 
itself in full battle from an attack from the north and north- 
west. It had been compelled to make a complete left wheel. 
The main shock began on the 20th, when the two armies of 
the French right battered themselves in vain against the 
strongly-prepared German defences. By the 21st the French 
centre armies were definitely stopped, and by noon on the 
23rd General Lanrezac and the French army of the left were 


outflanked and beaten. Meanwhile our small army, thrust 
hurriedly forward towards Mons to shield the French left, 
found itself in presence of not less than four army corps with 
numerous cavalry constituting the swinging fist and sabre of 
the German encircling advance. By the evening of the 23rd 
'Plan XVII J had failed in every single element. The French 
armies of the right were thrown back into France and were 
entirely occupied in defending themselves. Their armies of 
the centre and the left were in full retreat towards Paris and 
the south, and the British Army, isolated and beset by over- 
whelming numbers, was in the direst peril of complete de- 
struction. So mueh for 'Plan XVII. ' 

The utmost secrecy had naturally been maintained by the 
French about their general plan. The existence of their nation 
was at stake. Neither the British Cabinet nor what was left 
of the War Office were in a position to understand what was 
passing. I do not know how far Lord Kitchener was specially 
informed. I think it very improbable that he shared the 
secrets of the French Headquarters to the extent of being 
able to measure what was happening on the front as a whole. 
If he shared them, he did not show it by any remark which 
escaped him. He knew, of course, all there was to be known 
about the situation of our own army, and a good deal about 
the forces contiguous to it. 

As the shock drew near, Prince Louis and I felt it our duty 
at the Admiralty to free Lord Kitchener's hands in every 
respect and to bear to the full our burden of responsibility. 
I therefore wrote to him on the 22nd August as follows: 

The Admiralty are confident of their ability to secure this 
country against invasion or any serious raid. If you wish 
to send the 6th Division abroad at once, we should not raise 
any objection from the naval standpoint. The situation, 
now that both the Navy and the Territorials are mobilised 


and organised, is entirely different from those which have 
been discussed in the Invasion Committee, of the C.I.D. 1 ; 
and if you want to send the last Regular Division, the First 
Sea Lord and I are quite ready to agree, and so far as possi- 
ble to accept responsibility. 

He replied: 

'It is very doubtful if the division now crossing 2 will get 
up in time to take part in the battle now impending on the 
Sambre. As soon as I can I will let you know about the 6th 
Division going over. If I send it we have practically nothing 

Late on the evening of August 23 I had a talk with Lord 
Kitchener. We knew the main battle had been joined and 
that our men had been righting all day; but he had received 
no news. He was darkly hopeful. The map was produced. 
The dense massing of German divisions west of the Belgian 
Meuse and curling round the left flank of the Anglo-French 
line was visible as a broad effect. So was the pivot of Namur, 
in front of which this whole vast turning movement seemed 
precariously to be hinged. He had in his mind a great French 
counterstroke — a thrust at the shoulder, as it were, of the 
long, straining, encircling arm which should lop it off or cripple 
it fatally. He said of the Germans, 'They are running a grave 
risk. No one can set limits to what a well-disciplined army 
can do; but if the French were able to cut in here/ he made 
a vigorous arrow N.W. from Namur, 'the Germans might 
easily have a Sedan of their own on a larger scale/ I had a 
pleasing vision of the first phase of Austerlitz, with the Aus- 
trians stretching and spreading their left far out to the vil- 
lages of Tellnitz and Sokolnitz, while Napoleon remained 
crouched for his spring at the Pratzen plateau. But had 
France a Napoleon? One had marched through Charleroi 

1 Committee of Imperial Defence. 

2 The Fourth Division (the Fifth to go). 


ninety-nine years before. Was there another? And were 
the Germans like the Austrians and Russians of Austerlitz? 
However, we went anxiously but hopefully to our slumbers. 
At 7 o'clock the next morning I was sitting up in bed in 
Admiralty House working at my boxes, when the door of my 
bedroom opened and Lord Kitchener appeared. These were 
the days before he took to uniform, and my recollection is 
that he had a bowler hat on his head, which he took off with 
a hand which also held a slip of paper. He paused in the door- 
way and I knew in a flash and before ever he spoke that the 
event had gone wrong. Though his manner was quite calm, 
his face was different. I had the subconscious feeling that it 
was distorted and discoloured as if it had been punched with 
a fist. His eyes rolled more than ever. His voice, too, was 
hoarse. He looked gigantic. 'Bad news/ he said heavily 
and laid the slip of paper on my bed. I read the telegram. 
It was from Sir John French. 

'My troops have been engaged all day with the enemy on 
a line roughly east and west through Mons. The attack was 
renewed after dark, but we held our ground tenaciously. I 
have just received a message from G.O.C. 5th French Army 
that his troops have been driven back, that Namur has 
fallen, and that he is taking up a line from Maubeuge to Ro- 
croi. I have therefore ordered a retirement to the line Valen- 
ciennes-Longueville-Maubeuge, which is being carried out 
now. It will prove a difficult operation, if the enemy remains 
in contact. I remember your precise instructions as to method 
and direction of retirement if necessity arises. 

' I think that immediate attention should be directed to the 
defence of Havre.' 

I did not mind it much till I got to Namur. Namur fallen ! 
Namur taken in a single day — although a French brigade 
had joined the Belgians in its defence. We were evidently 
in the presence of new facts and of a new standard of values. 
If strong fortresses were to melt like wisps of vapour in a 


morning sun, many judgments would have to be revised. 
The foundations of thought were quaking. As for the 
strategic position, it was clear that the encircling arm was 
not going to be hacked off at the shoulder, but would close 
in a crushing grip. Where would it stop ? What of the naked 
Channel ports? Dunkirk, Calais, Boulogne! 'Fortify 
Havre/ said Sir John French. One day's general battle and 
the sanguine advance and hoped-for counterstroke had been 
converted into ' Fortify Havre.' 'It will be difficult to with- 
draw the troops if the enemy remains in contact' — a disquiet- 
ing observation. I forget much of what passed between us. 
But the apparition of Kitchener Agonistes in my doorway will 
dwell with me as long as I live. It was like seeing old John 
Bull on the rack ! 

When I met the Admirals later, at ten, they were deeply 
perturbed about these Channel ports. They had never taken 
the War Office view of the superiority of the French Army. 
They saw in this first decisive shock the confirmation of their 
misgivings. Some one suggested we should at any rate make 
sure of the Cotentin peninsula, as an ample place of arms, 
girt on three sides by the sea, from which the British armies 
of the future might proceed to the rescue of France. Fortify 
Havre indeed! Already we looked to Cherbourg and St. 

British Admiralty to French Admiralty. 

August 24th, 1 9 14. 
* Admiralty think it most important to naval interests to 
defend Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne as long as possible. 
We release Admiral Rouyer's armoured cruiser squadron to 
co-operate in the land defences of these three places. We 
will reinforce him if necessary with a battle squadron. French 
flotilla bases and naval stores at Calais and Boulogne can be 
transferred to Dover, and all preparations for that should be 
immediately worked out. . . . We wish also to receive with- 
out delay French views about land defences of Dunkirk, 


Boulogne, Calais and Havre and what military prospects are 
of holding on to all of them. We will, of course, assist in any 
way in our power. 

Lastly we are considering shifting all military stores of 
British Expeditionary Force now at Boulogne to Cherbourg. 
We wish to know French views on the necessity for this as 
the result of the present battle becomes more clear. . . . 

First Lord to Commander-in-Chief Grand Fleet. 

August 24th, 1914. 

* Personal. News from France is disappointing and seri- 
ous results of battle cannot yet be measured, as it still con- 
tinues over enormous front. 

I have had the telegrams about it repeated to you. 

We have not entered the business without resolve to see 
it through and you may be assured that our action will be 
proportioned to the gravity of the need. 

I have absolute confidence in final result. 

No special action is required from you at present, but you 
should address your mind to a naval situation which may 
arise where Germans control Calais and French coasts and 
what ought to be the position of Grand Fleet in that event. 

I had not seen the Chancellor of the Exchequer, except at 
Cabinets, since the fateful Sunday before the war. I had 
been buried in the Admiralty and he in the Treasury. I sus- 
tained vague general impressions of a tremendous financial 
crisis — panic, bankruptcies, suspension of the Bank Act, 
moratoriums, paper money — like a distant tumult. I real- 
ised that he, aided by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Reading, 
was riding the storm and regaining effective control of events. 
But I did not attempt to follow and appreciate the remark- 
able sequence of decisions by which an unprecedented, un- 
imaginable situation was met. Now, however, with this 
fateful news, I felt intensely the need of contact with him, 
and I wanted to know how it would strike him and how he 
would face it. So I walked across the Horse Guards Parade 
and made my way to the tunnel entrance of the Treasury 


Board Room. It must have been about 10 o'clock in the 
morning and, as I opened the door, I saw the room was 
crowded. One of that endless series of conferences with all 
the great business and financial authorities of Britain, by 
means of which the corner was turned, was in progress. He 
saw me at once : I beckoned with my ringer and he came out. 
We went into a little room scarcely bigger than a cupboard 
which adjoined, and I told him what had happened. I was 
relieved and overjoyed at his response. He was once again 
the Lloyd George of Agadir. Not since the morning of the 
Mansion House speech, three years before, had I seen him 
so strong and resolute for our country or so sure of its might. 

First Lord to Commander-in-Chief Grand Fleet 

August 25th, 1914. 
* British retirement on French frontier successfully and 
skilfully effected. Army now in strong position, well sup- 
ported. Our casualties reported not severe considering con- 
tinued engagement with two German corps and two cavalry 
divisions. Enemy was well punished and lost heavily. 
Main battle has still to be fought. General impression better 
this morning. Hope all is well with you. 

Then came the days of retreat. We saw that the French 
armies of the right were holding their own, but all the centre 
and left was marching southwards towards Paris as fast as 
possible, while our own five divisions 1 were for several days 
plainly in the very jaws of destruction. At the Admiralty 
we received requests to shift the base of the whole army from 
Havre to St. Nazaire; and with this complicated business we 
had to cope. The process of retreat continued day after day. 
A seemingly irresistible compulsion was pressing and forcing 
backwards the brave armies of France. Why should it stop? 
Would they ever be able to turn? If France could not save 
herself, nothing could save her. 

1 The Fourth Division (fifth in order of embarkation) arrived on 
the field at the beginning of the battle of Le Cateau. 


Casting about for help in this bitter time, I ventured to 
make the suggestions which follow. But it was not found 
possible, in view of all the difficulties, to give effect to them. 

Mr. Churchill to Lord Kitchener. 

August 2&th, 1914. 

Here is an idea which deserves examination. The Siberian 
troops would, if used against Germany and Austria, have to 
come south at an awkward moment and derange the com- 
munications (so I am told). On the other hand, it would 
probably be easy to send them to Archangel, and it is (roughly) 
only six days from Archangel to Ostend. 

If a couple of Russian Corps d'Armee were transported 
round this route, it would be possible to strike at the German 
communications in a very effective manner. 

It is an interesting idea, though I dare say it would not 
greatly commend itself to the Russians. Don't trouble to 

Prime Minister. 
Sir Edward Grey. 
Lord Kitchener. 

September 5, 19 14. 
I hear from many sources of the keen and widespread desire 
of individual Americans to take part in the war on our side. 
It has been stated that 50,000 or 60,000 Americans have vol- 
unteered, including a number of Virginians. I also hear that 
Wealthy Americans are anxious to subscribe to the equipment 
of a force. There is no doubt that a large number of American 
citizens of quality and character are anxious to fight on our 
side. The value and advantage of such aid cannot be over- 
rated from any point of view. I am ignorant of the law on 
these subjects: but Foreign Legions have played their part in 
many wars. It ought to be possible to organise in Canada 
an American volunteer force amounting to at least a Division, 
which could go into action as such. Nothing will bring Ameri- 
can sympathy along with us so much as American blood shed 
in the field. What is wanted now is that there should be an 
announcement made that we will accept the services of Ameri- 
cans who come to Canada or England and volunteer; that they 


will be formed into units in which they can serve together 
with their friends and comrades; that they will be able to 
choose their own regimental officers; and that the British 
Government will bear the whole expense of equipment and 
transportation; and that they shall share in every way the 
perils and fortunes of our troops. 

I believe there is a source of fighting manhood here of the 
highest possible quality, whose very employment would pro- 
duce beneficial reactions in every direction. The problem is 
how to set up the rallying flag in Canada, and so indicate 
where those who wish to help us can go to join. 

w. s. c. 

Personally I was hopeful that the wave of invasion would 
spend its fury, and as I had indicated in my memorandum of 
three years before, I believed that if the French forces had 
not been squandered by precipitate action on the frontiers, 
an opportunity of striking the decisive blow would occur 
about the fortieth day. In order to encourage my colleagues 
I reprinted this memorandum and circulated it to the whole 
Cabinet on September 2, pointing out that I had never 
counted upon a victorious issue at the frontiers, had always 
expected that the French armies would be driven into retreat 
by the twentieth day, but that, in spite of this, there were 
good hopes of success. But I had no means of measuring the 
forces by which this result would be achieved, except by the 
most general processes. 

Meanwhile the impression of an overwhelming disaster 
was conveyed to England through a hundred channels. News- 
paper correspondents made their way in the confusion to the 
very fringe of the German advance. Stragglers by the thou- 
sand and even detachments from the British Army, appeared 
in a desperate condition far to its rear and on its flanks. In 
spite of the censorship, the reports in the papers were alarm- 
ing, while rumour far exceeded anything that was printed. 
Acute distress was manifested. In these circumstances, at 
the request of Lord Kitchener and the Prime Minister, I 


drafted on Sunday, September 4, the following communique, 
which was universally accepted as coming from the Army, 
and I hope and believe gave comfort without concealing the 

It is now possible to make another general survey, in con- 
tinuation of that issued on August 30, of the operations of 
the British Army during the last week. 

No new main trial of strength has taken place. There have 
indeed been battles in various parts of the immense front 
which in other wars would have been considered operations 
of the first magnitude, but in this war they are merely the in- 
cidents of the strategic withdrawal and contraction of the 
allied forces necessitated by the initial shock on the frontiers 
and in Belgium, and by the enormous strength which the Ger- 
mans have thrown into the western theatre while suffering 
heavily through weakness in the eastern. 

The British Expeditionary Army has conformed to the gen- 
eral movement of the French forces and acted in harmony 
with the strategic conceptions of the French General Staff. 
Since the battle at Cambrai [Le Cateau] on August 26, where 
the British troops successfully guarded the left flank of the 
whole line of French Armies from a deadly turning attack 
supported by enormous force, the 7 th French Army 1 has come 
into operation on our left, and this, in conjunction with the 
5 th Army on our right, has greatly taken the strain and pres- 
sure off our men. The 5th French Army in particular on 
August 29 advanced from the line of the Oise River to meet 
and counter the German forward movement, and a consider- 
able battle developed to the south of Guise. In this the 5th 
French Army gained a marked and solid success, driving back 
with heavy loss and in disorder three German Army Corps — 
the 10th, the Guard, and a reserve corps. It is believed that 
the Commander of the 10th German Corps was among those 
killed. In spite of this success, however, and all the benefits 
which flowed from it, the general retirement to the south con- 
tinued, and the German Armies, seeking persistently after 
the British troops, remained in practically continuous con- 
tact with our rearguards. On August 30 and 31 the British 

1 Actually called the 6th Army. 


covering and delaying troops were frequently engaged, and 
on September i a very vigorous effort was made by the Ger- 
mans, which brought about a sharp action in the neighbour- 
hood of Compiegne. This action was fought principally by 
the ist British Cavalry Brigade and the 4th Guards Brigade 
and was entirely satisfactory to the British. The German 
attack, which was most strongly pressed, was not brought to 
a standstill until much slaughter had been inflicted upon 
them and until ten German guns had been captured. The 
brunt of this creditable affair fell upon the Guards Brigade, 
who lost in killed and wounded about 300 men. 1 

After this engagement our troops were no longer molested. 
Wednesday, September 2, was the first quiet day they had 
had since the battle of Mons, on August 23. During the 
whole of this period marching and fighting had been continu- 
ous, and in the whole period the British casualties had 
amounted, according to the latest estimates, to about 15,000 
officers and men. The fighting having been in open order 
upon a wide front, with repeated retirements, has led to a 
large number of officers and men, and even small parties, 
missing their way and getting separated, and it is known that 
a very considerable number of those now included in the total 
will rejoin the colours safely. These losses, though heavy in 
so small a force, have in no wise affected the spirit of the 
troops. They do not amount to a third of the losses inflicted 
by the British force upon the enemy, and the sacrifice re- 
quired of the Army has not been out of proportion to its mili- 
tary achievements. In all, drafts amounting to 19,000 men 
have reached our Army or are approaching them on the line 
of communications, and advantage is being taken of the five 
quiet days that have passed since the action of September 1 
to £11 up' the gaps and refit and consolidate the units. 

The British Army is now south of the Marne and is in line 
with the French forces on the right and left. The latest in- 
formation about the enemy is that they are neglecting Paris and 
are marching in a south-easterly direction towards the Marne 
and towards the left and centre of the French line} The ist 

1 In fact, however, it was the ist Middlesex (19th Infantry Brigade 
attached to 4th Division), who captured the guns at Nery, the Guards 
being miles away at Villers Cotterets. 

2 The italics are new. 


German Army is reported to be between La Ferte sous Jou- 
arre and Essises Viffort. The 2nd German Army, after taking 
Rheims, 1 has advanced to Chateau-Thierry and to the east 
of that place. The 4th German Army is reported to be march- 
ing south on the west of the Argonne between Suippes and 
Ville sur Tourbe. All these points were reached by the Ger- 
mans on September 3. The 7th German Army has been re- 
pulsed by a French Corps near D'Ein ville. It would there- 
fore appear that the enveloping movement upon the Anglo-French 
left flank has been abandoned by the Germans, either because it 
is no longer practicable to continue such a great extension or 
because the alternative of a direct attack upon the Allied line is 
preferred. Whether this change of plan by the Germans is 
voluntary or whether it has been enforced upon them by the 
strategic situation and the great strength of the Allied Armies 
in their front, will be revealed by the course of events. 

There is no doubt whatever that our men have established 
a personal ascendancy over the Germans and that they are 
conscious of the fact that with anything like even numbers 
the result would not be doubtful. 

At this time I knew, of course, that another supreme battle 
was impending. My principal fear was that the French would 
turn too soon and make their new effort before the German 
thrust had reached its full extension. I was glad therefore 
to learn on September 3 that the French Government were 
quitting Paris, as it showed a resolve to treat the capital just 
as if it were an ordinary tactical feature to be fought round 
or through as might be convenient in a purely military sense. 
It also showed a determination to continue the war whatever 
might happen to Paris. We were now at the thirty-fifth day 
of mobilisation. The Germans must be strung out in their 
pursuit and far ahead of supplies, munitions and drafts. The 
great mass of Paris with its circle of forts must either, like a 
breakwater, divide the oncoming German waves, or by com- 
pelling them to pass wholly to the east of it serve as a secure 
flank for the French. 

1 The Third German Army took Rheims and were bombarded in the 
town by the Second Army. 


And at this culminating moment the Russian pressure 
began to produce substantial effects. Honour must ever be 
done to the Tsar and Russian nation for the noble ardour 
and loyalty with which they hurled themselves into the war. 
A purely Russian treatment of their military problem would 
have led the Russian armies into immediate withdrawals 
from their frontiers until the whole of their vast mobilisation 
was completed. Instead of this, they added to a forward 
mobilisation an impetuous advance not only against Austria 
but into Germany. The flower of the Russian army was soon 
to be cut down in enormous and fearful battles in East Prus- 
sia. But the results of their invasion were gathered at the 
decisive point. The nerve of the German Headquarters failed. 
On August 25 two army corps and a cavalry division of the 
German right were withdrawn from France. On August 31 
Lord Kitchener was able to telegraph to Sir John French: 
'Thirty- two trains of German troops were yesterday reported 
moving from the western field to meet the Russians.' l 

Awful was the responsibility of General Joffre and the 
French High Command for the decision which must now be 
taken. To turn too late was to risk the demoralisation of 
the armies. To turn too soon was to court another and this 
time a final defeat. And how compute the balance of all the 
agonies and pressures simultaneously operating and recipro- 
cally interacting which should determine the dread issue? 
Whatever the mistakes of the opening phase, however wrong 
the tactical and strategic conceptions which had induced 
them, immortal glory crowns the brows of those who gave 
the fateful signal, and lights the bayonets of the heroic armies 
that obeyed it. 

On September 6, being the thirty-seventh day of mobilisa- 
tion, all the French armies between Verdun and Paris, to- 
gether with the British Army and the French forces in Paris 

1 Official History Appendix 22, p. 473. 


and to the north of Paris, turned upon their pursuers and 
sprang at their throats. The Battle of the Marne had begun. 

I may now be permitted to descend to a small scale of 
events, and to refer to an incident which has caused both 
stir and controversy. 

By the 27 th August the Cabinet had formed the opinion 
that great friction had arisen between Sir John French and 
General Lanrezac and also between the British and French 
Head-quarters. Actually the difference was with General 
Lanrezac, who Sir John French considered had not given 
him due notice of his intention to retire after the battle on 
the 22nd and 23rd. We were concerned with the apparent 
intention of the British Army to retire and refit behind the 
French left. Their losses so far reported to us did not exceed 
10,000 men. We could not measure the exhaustion of the 
troops nor the extent of the disorganisation inseparable from 
continued fighting and retreating. We accordingly decided 
to send Lord Kitchener at once to see the British and French 
Commanders-in-Chief and make sure that nothing that Brit- 
ain could do should be left undone. 1 If Lord Kitchener had 
gone in plain clothes no difficulty would have risen, but his 
appearance in Paris in the uniform of a Field-Marshal senior 
to the Commander-in-Chief at that dark and critical moment, 
wounded and disconcerted Sir John French deeply and not 
unnaturally. I laboured my utmost to put this right and to 
make it clear that the Cabinet and not Lord Kitchener were 


September 4, 19 14. 
Mr. Churchill to Sir John French. 

I have wanted so much to write to you and yet not to 
bother you with reading letters. Still, I suppose there are 

1 The correspondence on this subject is printed in the Official His- 
tory of the War, Appendix 22, p. 471. 


moments when you can find the leisure to read a few lines 
from a friend. The Cabinet was bewildered by your telegram 
proposing to retire from the line, coming on the top of a cas- 
ualty list of 6,000, and your reports as to the good spirit of 
the troops. We feared that you and Joffre might have quar- 
relled, or that something had happened to the Army of which 
we had not been informed. In these circumstances tele- 
graphing was useless, and a personal consultation was indis- 
pensable if further misunderstandings were to be avoided. 

I am sure it would be wise to have some good officer on 
your staff like, say, Major Swinton, who could without 
troubling you unduly give us a clear and complete impres- 
sion of what is taking place day by day. Our only wish is to 
sustain and support you. We are at a point where losses 
will only rouse still further the spirit of the nation, provided 
they are incurred, as yours have been, in brilliant and success- 
ful action. But we ought to be kept in a position to form a 
true and connected impression of the course of events. 

For my own part, I am only anxious that you shall be sus- 
tained and reinforced in every way, and I look forward con- 
fidently to seeing you ere long at the head of a quarter of a 
million men, and in the spring of half a million. 

I enclose you a paper which I wrote three years ago, which 
seems to have been borne out by the course of events, and 
which I hope will continue to be confirmed. 

In case any further difficulties arise, and you think I can 
be of any use, you have only to send for me, and subject to 
the naval situation I could reach you very quickly by motor- 
car or aeroplane. 

It is hard sitting here day after day with so many friends 
engaged. The resolution of the nation is splendid. It is a 
different country to the one you left 

God guard you and prosper our arms. 

September 6, 19 14. 
Sir John French to Mr. Churchill. 

Thank you very much for your kind and encouraging 
letter. It was a keen pleasure to hear from you and to read 
your words. 

I have had a terribly anxious time and the troops have 
suffered severely, but they are simply glorious ! 


I think you have heard me say that I would be ready to 
take on any enemy in Europe half as strong again. I say 
that more than ever now I I can't find words to say all I 
think of them. 

There has been some extraordinary misunderstanding at 
home as to my relations with General Joffre, the French 
C-in-C. We have been on the very best terms all through, 
and he has spoken most kindly of the help he has received 
from us. I can't understand what brought Kitchener to 
Paris. I am writing to you as one of my greatest friends and 
I know you'll let me write freely and privately. His visit 
was really most unfortunate. He took me away from the 
front to visit him in Paris on a very critical day when I should 
have been directing the operation most carefully, and I tell 
you between ourselves strictly that when I returned to my 
Head-quarters I found a very critical situation existing (8 
p.m. !) and authoritative orders and directions badly needed. 
It was the day when the Guards and a Cavalry Brigade were 
so heavily engaged. 

I do beg of you, my dear Friend, to add one more to all the 
many great kindnesses you have done me and stop this inter- 
ference with field operations. 

In reply I sent further explanations which, aided as they 
were by victory, proved acceptable. 

Sir John French to Mr. Churchill. 

General Head-quarters, 
British Forces, 

September 10, 19 14. 
Thank you, my dear Friend, with all my heart for your 
truly kind reply to my letter, and also for your previous letter 
of the 4th. I fear I was a little unreasonable about K. and 
his visit, but we have been through a hard time and perhaps 
my temper isn't made any better by it ! However, as usual, 
you have poured balm into my wounds — although they may 
have been only imaginary — and I am deeply grateful. 

Since I wrote to you last the whole atmosphere has changed 
and for 5 solid days we have been pursuing instead of pur- 
sued, and the Germans have had simply hell. This very day 


we have captured several hundred, cut off a whole lot of trans- 
port and got 10 or 12 guns — and the ground is strewn with 
dead and wounded Germans. Something like this happened 
yesterday and the day before. But this is nothing to what 
they have lost in front of the 5 th and 6th French armies, 
which have been much more strongly opposed. They are 
indeed fairly on the run and we are following hard. 

What a wonderful forecast you made in 191 1. I don't 
remember the paper, but it has turned out almost as you 
said. I have shown it to a few of my Staff. 

I was afraid of Joffre's strategy at first and thought he 
ought to have taken the offensive much sooner, but he was 
quite right 

$ $ * $ sje 

I felt it vitally important to my whole structure of 
thought on this war problem to see for myself with my own 
eyes what was passing at the front and what were the con- 
ditions of this new war, and to have personal contact with 
Sir John French. Reflection and imagination can only build 
truly when they are checked point by point by direct impres- 
sions of reality. I believed myself sufficiently instructed to 
derive an immense refreshment of judgment from personal 
investigation without incurring the opposite danger of a dis- 
torted view through particular experiences. But it was not 
until the armies came to a standstill along the line of the Aisne, 
that I felt justified in asking Lord Kitchener to allow me to 
accept the repeated invitations of Sir John French. He gladly 
gave his permission and I started the next morning. On the 
1 6th September the Duke of Westminster drove me from 
Calais to the British Head-quarters at La Fere-en-Tardenois. 
We made a fairly wide detour as we had no exact information 
as to where the flanks of the moving armies actually lay, and 
it was not until nightfall that we fell in with the left flank of 
the British line. Sir John had all his arrangements ready 
made for me, and the next day between daylight and dark 
I was able to traverse the entire British artillery front from 
the edge of the Craonne Plateau on the right to the outskirts 


of Soissons on the left. I met everybody I wanted to meet 
and saw everything that could be seen without unnecessary 
danger. I lunched with "The Greys" then commanded by 
that fine soldier Colonel Bulkeley- Johnson. I had a long 
talk with Sir Henry Rawlinson on a haystack from which 
we could observe the fire of the French artillery near Soissons. 
I saw for the first time what then seemed the prodigy of a 
British aeroplane threading its way among the smoke puffs 
of searching shells. I saw the big black German shells, "the 
coal boxes" and "Jack Johnsons" as they were then called, 
bursting in Paissy village or among our patient, impassive 
batteries on the ridge. I climbed to a wooded height beneath 
which the death-haunted bridge across the Aisne was visible. 
When darkness fell I saw the horizon lighted with the quick 
flashing of the cannonade. Such scenes were afterwards to 
become commonplace: but their first aspect was thrilling. 
I dined with the young officers of the Head-quarters Staff 
and met there, for the last time alas, my brilliant, gallant 
friend Hugh Dawnay. Early next morning I opened with 
Sir John French the principal business I had to discuss, 
namely, the advantages of disengaging the British Army 
from its position on the Aisne and its transportation to its 
natural station on the sea flank in contact with the Navy. 
I found the Field Marshal in the most complete accord, and 
I undertook to lay his views before Lord Kitchener and the 
Prime Minister, who I knew would welcome such a develop- 
ment. I started home immediately and reached London the 
next morning. 

Contact with the Army was always a great encouragement 
to every one who visited France. In the field, in spite of the 
newly-dug graves and hurrying ambulances, there was not 
the same sense of tragedy as hung around our windows in 
Whitehall. But I could not share the universal optimism of 
the Staff. It was firmly believed and loudly declared on every 
side that if all available reinforcements in officers and men 


were sent to the Army without delay, the war would be 
finished by Christmas. Fierce were the reproaches that the 
War Office were withholding vitally needed officers, instruc- 
tors and material for the purpose of training vast armies that 
would never be ready in time. I combated these views to 
the best of my ability, being fully convinced of Lord Kitch- 
ener's commanding foresight and wisdom in resisting the 
temptation to meet the famine of the moment by devouring 
the seed-corn of the future. I repeated the memorable words 
he had used to the Cabinet that 'The British Empire must 
participate in the land war on the greatest scale and that in 
no other way could victory be won.' Taking a complete sur- 
vey, I consider now that this prudent withholding from the 
Army in the field in the face of every appeal and demand the 
key-men who alone could make the new armies, was the great- 
est of the services which Lord Kitchener rendered to the na- 
tion at this time, and it was a service which no one of lesser 
authority than he could have performed. 



Expeditions against the German Colonies — The Imperial Reinforce- 
ments — The Admiralty at Full Strain — General situation in the 
Outer Seas — The Price of Concentration at Home — The Konigs- 
berg and the Emden in the Indian Ocean — The Convoy System — 
General situation in the Pacific — British dispositions — Japan 
Declares War on Germany — Overwhelming Forces of the Allies — 
Difficulty of their Task — Fox and Geese — Problem of Admiral 
von Spee — Limitations on his Action — Plight of Cruisers without 
Bases — Tell-tale Coal — The Admiralty Problem — The Capture 
of Samoa — The great Australasian Convoy — The Capture of New 
Guinea — Depredations of the Emden — Concentration against the 
Emden — Public Dissatisfaction on Admiralty Statement — Sail- 
ing of the Australasian Convoy to Colombo — The Canadians 
cross the Atlantic — First Imperial Concentration Complete. 

ON an August morning, behold the curious sight of a Brit- 
ish Cabinet of respectable Liberal politicians sitting 
down deliberately and with malice aforethought to plan the 
seizure of the German colonies in every part of the world! 
A month before, with what horror and disgust would most 
of those present have averted their minds from such ideas ! 
But our sea communications depended largely upon the 
prompt denial of these bases or refuges to the German cruisers; 
and further, with Belgium already largely overrun by the 
German armies, every one felt that we must lose no time in 
taking hostages for her eventual liberation. Accordingly, with 
maps and pencils, the whole world was surveyed, six separate 
expeditions were approved in principle and remitted to the 
Staffs for study and execution. An enterprising Captain had 
already on the outbreak of war invaded the German colony 
of Togoland. We now proposed, in conjunction with the 
French, to attack the Cameroons — a much more serious under- 



taking. General Botha had already declared his intention of 
invading German South- West Africa. The New Zealand and 
Australian Governments wished at once to seize Samoa and 
the German possessions in the Pacific. An Anglo-Indian ex- 
pedition was authorised for the attack of German East Africa. 
The Staff work in preparation for the military side of this 
last expedition was by no means perfect, and resulted in a seri- 
ous rebuff. The transportation of the expeditionary forces 
simultaneously in all these different directions while the seas 
were still scoured by the German cruisers threw another set 
of responsibilities upon the Admiralty. 

From the middle of September onwards we began to be 
at our fullest strain. The great map of the world which cov- 
ered one whole wall of the War Room now presented a re- 
markable appearance. As many as twenty separate enter- 
prises and undertakings dependent entirely upon sea power 
were proceeding simultaneously in .different parts of the globe. 1 
Apart from the expeditions set forth above, the enormous 
business of convoying from all parts of the Empire the troops 
needed for France, and of replacing them in some cases with 
Territorials from home, lay heavy upon us. It was soon to 
be augmented. 

It had been easy to set on foot the organisation of the three 
Naval Brigades and other Divisional troops for the Royal 
Naval Division; but at a very early stage I found the creation 
of the artillery beyond any resources of which I could dispose. 
We could, and did, order a hundred field guns in the United 
States, but the training, mounting and equipping of the artil- 
lerymen could not and ought not to be undertaken apart from 
the main preparation of the Army. My military staff officer, 
Major Ollivant, at this stage had a very good idea which pro- 
voked immediately far-reaching consequences. He advised 
me to ask Lord Kitchener for a dozen British batteries from 
India to form the artillery of the Royal Naval Division, letting 
1 See map to face p. 328. 


India have Territorial batteries in exchange. I put this to 
Lord Kitchener the same afternoon. He seemed tremendously 
struck by the idea. What would the Cabinet say ? he asked. 
If the Government of India refused, could the Cabinet over- 
rule them? Would they? Would I support him in the mat- 
ter? And so on. I had to leave that night for the North to 
visit the Fleet, which was lying in Loch Ewe, on the west 
coast of Scotland. Forty-eight hours later, when I returned, 
I visited Lord Kitchener and asked him how matters were 
progressing. He beamed with delight. 'Not only/ he said, 
'am I going to take twelve batteries, but thirty-one; and not 
only am I going to take batteries, I am going to take battal- 
ions. I am going to take thirty-nine battalions: I am going 
to send them Territorial divisions instead — three Territorial 
divisions. You must get the transports ready at once.' After 
we had gloated over this prospect of succouring our struggling 
front, I observed that I could now count on the twelve bat- 
teries for the Royal Naval Division. 'Not one/ he said. 
'I am going to take them all myself; and he rubbed his 
hands together with every sign of glee. So the Naval Divi- 
sion was left again in the cold and had to go forward as in- 
fantry only. 

This new development involved a heavy addition to our 
convoy work, and the situation in the Indian and Pacific 
Oceans must now be examined by the reader. 

When war began the Germans had the following cruisers 
on foreign stations: Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Etnden, Nurn- 
berg, Leipzig (China); Konigsberg (East Africa and Indian 
Ocean); Dresden, Karlsruhe (West Indies). All these ships 
were fast and modern, and every one of them did us serious 
injury before they were destroyed. There were also several 
gunboats: Geier, Planet, Komet, Nusa and Eber, none of 
which could be ignored. In addition, we expected that the 
Germans would try to send to sea upwards of forty fast 
armed merchantmen to prey on commerce. Our arrangements 


were, however, as has been narrated, successful in prevent- 
ing all but five from leaving harbour. Of these five the larg- 
est, the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, was sunk by the Highflyer 
(Captain Buller) on August 26: the Cap Trafalgar was sunk 
on September 14 by the British armed merchant cruiser Car- 
mania (Captain Noel Grant) after a brilliant action between 
these two naked ships; and the three others took refuge and 
were interned in neutral harbours some months later. Our 
dispositions for preventing a cruiser and commerce-raider 
attack upon our trade were from the outset very largely suc- 
cessful, and in the few months with which this volume deals, 
every one of the enemy ships was reduced to complete inac- 
tivity, sunk or pinned in port. 

Nevertheless, it is a fair criticism that we ought to have 
had more fast cruisers in foreign waters, and in particular 
that we ought to have matched every one of the German 
cruisers with a faster ship as it was our intention to do. 1 The 
Karlsruhe in the West Indies gave a chance to our hunting 
vessels at the outbreak of war, and the Konigsberg in the In- 
dian Ocean was sighted a few days earlier. But our ships 
were not fast enough to bring the former to action or keep in 
close contact with the latter till war was declared. As will 
be seen, nearly every one of these German cruisers took its 
prey before being caught, not only of merchant ships but of 
ships of war. The Scharnhorst and Gneisenau sank the Mon- 
mouth and Good Hope, the Konigsberg surprised and destroyed 
the Pegasus, and the Emden sank the Russian cruiser Zem- 
chug and the French destroyer Mousquet. Certainly they did 
their duty well. 

The keynote of all the Admiralty dispositions at the out- 
break of war was to be as strong as possible in home waters 
in order to fight a decisive battle with the whole German 
Navy. To this end the foreign stations were cut down to 
the absolute minimum necessary to face the individual ships 
1 See Appendix. 


abroad in each theatre. The fleet was weak in fast light 
cruisers and the whole of my administration had been oc- 
cupied in building as many of them as possible. None, of the 
Arethusas had, however yet reached the Fleet. We there- 
fore grudged every light cruiser removed from home waters, 
feeling that the Fleet would be tactically incomplete without 
its sea cavalry. The principle of first things first, and of 
concentrating in a decisive theatre against the enemy's main 
power, had governed everything, and had led to delay in 
meeting an important and well-recognised subsidiary require- 
ment. The inconvenience in other parts of the globe had to 
be faced. It was serious. 

Nowhere did this inconvenience show itself more than in 
the Indian Ocean. After being sighted and making off on 
the 31st of July, the Konigsberg became a serious preoccu- 
pation on all movements of troops and trade. Another fast 
German cruiser, the Etnden, which on the outbreak of war 
was on the China station, also appeared in the middle of Sep- 
tember in Indian waters, and being handled with enterprise 
and audacity began to inflict numerous and serious losses 
upon our mercantile marine. These events produced conse- 

By the end of August we had already collected the bulk 
of the 7th Division from all the fortresses and garrisons of 
the Empire. During September the two British Indian divi- 
sions with additional cavalry (in all nearly 50,000 men) were 
already crossing the Indian Ocean. On top of this came the 
plans for exchanging practically all the British infantry and 
artillery in India for Territorial batteries and battalions, and 
the formation of the 27th, 28th and 29th Divisions of regu- 
lar troops. The New Zealand contingent must be escorted 
to Australia and there, with 25,000 Australians, await con- 
voys to Europe. Meanwhile the leading troops of the Cana- 
dian Army, about 25,000 strong, had to be brought across 
the Atlantic. All this was of course additional to the main 


situation in the North Sea and to the continued flow of drafts, 
reinforcements and supplies across the Channel. Meanwhile 
the enemy's Fleet remained intact, waiting, as we might think, 
its moment to strike ; and his cruisers continued to prey upon 
the seas. To strengthen our cruiser forces we had already 
armed and commissioned twenty-four liners as auxiliary cruis- 
ers, and had armed defensively fifty-four merchantmen. An- 
other forty suitable vessels were in preparation. In order to 
lighten the strain in the Indian Ocean and to liberate our 
light cruisers for their proper work of hunting down the 
enemy, I proposed the employment of our old battleships 
(Canopus class) as escorts to convoys. 

Besides employing these old battleships on convoy, we had 
also at the end of August sent three others abroad as rally- 
ing points for our cruisers in case a German heavy cruiser 
should break out: thus the Glory was sent to Halifax, the 
Albion to Gibraltar and the Canopus to the Cape de Verde 
station. Naval history afforded numerous good examples of 
the use of a protective battleship to give security and defen- 
sive superiority to a cruiser force — to serve, in fact, as a float- 
ing fortress round which the faster vessels could manoeuvre, 
and on which they could fall back. These battleships also 
gave protection to the colliers and supply ships at the vari- 
ous oceanic bases, without which all our cruiser system would 
have broken down. The reader will see the system further 
applied as the war advances. 

At the beginning of September I decided that the whole 
convoy system in the Indian Ocean must be put on a regular 


First Sea Lord. 

Chief of Staff. 

Sir Henry Jackson. ' Oi.ii. 

' J September 5, 19 14. 

There is no use in our sending escorts which are weaker than 

the enemy's ship from which attack is to be apprehended. 

Armed merchant cruisers can in no case be counted on except as 


an additional reinforcement. Single troopships may be es- 
corted by one war vessel, if that vessel is stronger than the 
Konigsberg. No convoys of transports are to go across the 
Indian Ocean or Red Sea unless escorted by at least two war 
vessels, one of which must be stronger than the Konigsberg. 
In large convoys of over six vessels a third, and in very large 
convoys a fourth, warship should be added. Military needs 
must give way to the limitations of escort. Six ships, includ- 
ing the Fox, are available; and it ought to be possible to or- 
ganise fortnightly if not 12-day convoys from Bombay. 

Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, should be directed to 
submit, by telegraph, a scheme for such convoys. All trans- 
ports which may want convoy must be held over till the next 
is ready. W. S. C. 

First Sea Lord. 

Chief of Staff. _ , 

September 15, 19 14. 

In order to accelerate the despatch of the third Division 
from India to France, and the seven battalions to German 
East Africa, it is proposed that the transports now conveying 
the Territorial Division to Egypt shall go on to Bombay. It 
has also been decided to exchange thirty-one batteries of 
[British] Indian regular artillery for service in Europe with an 
equal number of Territorial batteries which are to embark 
shortly from home. The ships carrying the Territorial bat- 
teries will also go on to Bombay and be available as additional 

Please concert these measures with the War Office. It is 
most important that these double convoys each way should 
hit off our fortnightly escorts which are the governing con- 

Pray let me have a scheme showing how all this movement 
can be fitted in with the greatest speed and smoothness. 

w. s. c. 


First Sea Lord. 

Chief of Staff. 

Sir Henry Jackson. September 18, 1914. 

In addition to the 2 Divisions now coming from India and 
the expedition for German East Africa, we must expect the 
following: — 


(a) A third Indian Division. 

(b) 31 batteries of field artillery from India, to be ex- 

changed for an equal amount of Territorial artillery 
from home. 

(c) 39 battalions of British infantry from India, to be ex- 

changed for an equal number of Territorial battalions 
from home. 

(d) As many more Indian troops as India in these circum- 

stances finds it convenient to despatch. 

(e) Reinforcements to make good wastage of Indian troops 

in the field. 
These later movements are not all finally settled and ap- 
proved, but it is certain that from now till Christmas we shall 
require to maintain regular fortnightly convoys. We cannot 
delay till then the work of hunting down Kbnigsberg and Emden 
by our own fast cruisers, nor can we keep these vessels em- 
ployed indefinitely on duties for which they are unsuited. It 
is necessary that 3 old battleships, including Ocean from Gi- 
braltar, should proceed at once to the East Indies Station to 
relieve, as they arrive, first Dartmouth and Chatham, and next 
Black Prince. Minerva should go on to India with the trans- 
ports she is now escorting to Egypt, and the East Indies con- 
voy force should be as follows: — 

Suez : 2 Majesties 1 and Minerva. 

Bombay: i Majestic, Swiftsure, and Fox. 

These escorts should sail every fortnight to exchange trans- 
ports at the rendezvous 500 miles east of Aden. Modern ships 
would be released for other duties as these came on the spot. 

(2) In the Mediterranean the French should be asked to 
supply 4 old battleships and 2 old armoured cruisers for con- 
voy duty between Marseilles and Port Said, and asked to 
arrange fortnightly sailings via Malta to fit in with the Indian 
convoy service. We will escort all transports from England 
to Malta at times which will enable the French convoys to 
take them up en route. 

(3) The force at the Dardanelles must be raised to a strength 
sufficient to fight the Turco- German fleet. As soon, therefore, 
as the French escort becomes available, Indomitable should 

1 The old battleships in question were actually "Canopuses" — the 
class above "Majesties." 


join Indefatigable. Defence should also be ordered there from 
Malta. Weymouth should come home. The four destroyers 
from the Canal should rejoin their flotilla at the Dardanelles. 

(4) In view of the above, I agree that Fox should remain 
with the Indian convoy and that Dartmouth should take the 
three transports to Mombassa, afterwards hunting Konigsberg. 

(5) The whole of this should be co-ordinated and worked 
out into a regular time-table of sailings, to which the military 
must adhere, sending more or less transports, according to their 
convenience. It must be clearly understood that no inter- 
mediate sailings are possible. W S P 

The position in the Pacific was also complicated. 

When I went to the Admiralty at the end of 191 1, arrange- 
ments were made to form the China squadron of the Defence, 
the Minotaur, and an armoured cruiser of the County class. 
These two first-named ships were in themselves a very satis- 
factory disposition against the powerful German armoured 
cruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. They were approxi- 
mately equal to the Germans in modernity, size and speed, 
but of heavier metal, firing a broadside of 2,520 pounds as 
against 1,725 pounds of their rivals. 

But as time passed and the pressure upon us grew more 
severe, we had in 191 3 to bring one of these ships (Defence) 
back to the Mediterranean. In order to fill the gap with 
the least possible inroad upon our home strength, Prince 
Louis being First Sea Lord, we devised a frugal scheme by 
which the Triumph — one of the two battleships which had 
been built for and bought from Chili to prevent their falling 
into Russian hands at the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese 
War — was made to serve as a depot ship manned on mobilisa- 
tion from the crews of the river gunboats on the Yangtse and 
the West River. Her sister (the Swiftsure) shortly after- 
wards became the flagship in the East Indies. These two 
ships had the good speed for battleships of their date of 20*1 
knots. They carried four 10-inch and no less than fourteen 


7 '5-inch guns. They were not heavily armoured, and accord- 
ing to our ideas they were a compromise between the battle- 
ship and the armoured cruiser. Differing in conception at 
many points from the standard types of the Royal Navy, 
these vessels did not fit homogeneously into any of our battle 
squadrons, and were conveniently employed on special duties. 
Without the Triumph Admiral Jerram's squadron {Minotaur 
and Hampshire with the light cruiser Yarmouth) would on the 
outbreak of war have had little or no margin, though the 
Minotaur was the strongest of all our armoured cruisers. 
But once the Triumph was mobilised, our superiority, except 
in speed, was overwhelming, and we could afford to see how 
greater matters went at home before deciding whether to 
reinforce the China station or not. 

In the first hours of the crisis, my thoughts had turned to 
the China station. As early as the 28th July I proposed to 
the First Sea Lord the discreet mobilisation of the Triumph 
and the concentration of the China squadron upon her; and 
this was accordingly effected in good time. Five thousand 
miles to the southward was the Australian squadron, con- 
sisting of the battle-cruiser Australia, and the two excellent 
modern light cruisers Sydney and Melbourne. The Australia 
by herself could, of course, defeat the Scharnhorst and Gneise- 
nau, though by running different ways one of the pair could 
have escaped destruction. Our last look round the oceans 
before the fateful signal, left us therefore in no immediate 
anxiety about the Pacific. 

On the outbreak of war the French armoured cruisers 
Montcalm and Dupleix and the Russian light cruisers Askold 
and Zemchug, in the Far East, were placed under British com- 
mand, thus sensibly increasing our predominance. A few 
days later an event of the greatest importance occurred. The 
attitude of Japan towards Germany suddenly became one of 
fierce menace. No clause in the Anglo- Japanese Treaty en- 
titled us to invoke the assistance of Japan. But it became 


evident before the war had lasted a week that the Japanese 
nation had not forgotten the circumstances and influences 
under which they had been forced, at the end of the Chinese 
War, to quit Port Arthur. They now showed themselves 
resolved to extirpate all German authority and interests in 
the Far East. On the 15th, Japan addressed an ultimatum 
to Germany demanding within seven days the unconditional 
surrender of the German naval base Tsing Tau [Kiaochau], 
couching this demand in the very phrases in which nineteen 
years before they had been summoned to leave Port Arthur 
at the instance of Germany. In reply the German Emperor 
commanded his servants to resist to the end; and here, as 
almost in every other place where Germans found themselves 
isolated in the face of overwhelming force, he was obeyed with 

The advent of Japan into the war enabled us to use our 
China squadron to better advantage in other theatres. The 
Newcastle was ordered across the Pacific, where our two old 
sloops (the Algerine and Shearwater) were in jeopardy from 
the German light cruiser Leipzig. The Triumph was sent to 
participate with a small British contingent in the Japanese 
attack upon the fortress of Tsing Tau. General arrange- 
ments were made by the British and Japanese Admiralties 
whereby responsibility for the whole of the Northern Pacific, 
except the Canadian Coast, was assumed by Japan. 

The table following sets forth the rival forces in the western 
Pacific at the outbreak of war. Even without the ships em- 
ployed by Japan or the great Japanese reserves which lay 
behind them, the superior strength of the Allies was over- 
whelming. But the game the two sides had to play was by 
no means as unequal as it looked. It was indeed the old game 
of Fox and Geese. The two powerful German cruisers Scharn~ 
horst and Gneisenau, with their two light cruisers, formed a 
modern squadron fast and formidable in character. Our 
battle-cruiser Australia could catch them and could fight 



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them single-handed. The Minotaur and the Hampshire could 
just catch them and, as we held, could fight them with good 
prospects of success; but it would be a hard fought action. 
If the Triumph were added to Minotaur and Hampshire, there 
was no risk at all in the fight but almost insuperable difficulty 
in bringing the enemy to action. Among the light cruisers, 
the Yarmouth, Melbourne, Sydney and the Japanese Chikuma 
could both catch and kill Emden or Nilrnberg. Of our older 
light cruisers Fox and Encounter could have fought Emden or 
Nilrnberg with a chance of killing or at least of crippling them 
before being killed: but neither was fast enough to catch them. 
Our remaining cruisers could only be used in combination 
with stronger vessels. With our forces aided by two French 
and two Russian ships and by the Japanese to the extent 
which will be described, the Admiralty had to protect all the 
expeditions, convoys and trade in the Pacific. To wit — 

The New Zealand convoy to Australia. 

The Australian and New Zealand convoy from Australia 
to Europe. 

The convoy of the British Far Eastern garrisons to Eu- 

The convoy of Indian troops to relieve our Far Eastern 

The expedition to Samoa. 

The expedition to New Guinea. 

All these were in addition to the general trade, which con- 
tinued uninterruptedly. 

Admiral von Spee, the German Commander in the Pacific, 
had therefore no lack of objectives. He had only to hide 
and to strike. The vastness of the Pacific and its multi- 


tude of islands offered him their shelter, and, once he had 
vanished, who should say where he would reappear? On 
the other hand, there were considerable checks on his action 
and a limit, certain though indefinite, to the life of his squad- 
ron. With the blockade of Tsing Tau he was cut from his 
only base on that side of the world. He had no means of 
docking his ships or executing any serious repairs, whether 
necessitated by battle or steaming. The wear and tear on 
modern ships is considerable, and difficulties multiply with 
every month out of dock. To steam at full speed or at high 
speed for any length of time on any quest was to use up his 
life rapidly. He was a cut flower in a vase; fair to see, yet 
bound to die, and to die very soon if the water was not con- 
stantly renewed. Moreover, the process of getting coal was 
one of extraordinary difficulty and peril. The extensive or- 
ganisation of the Admiralty kept the closest watch in every 
port on every ton of coal and every likely collier. The pur- 
chase of coal and the movement of a collier were tell-tale traces 
which might well lay the pursuers on his track. His own 
safety and his power to embarrass us alike depended upon 
the uncertainty of his movements. But this uncertainty 
might be betrayed at any moment by the movement of col- 
liers or by the interception of wireless messages. Yet how 
could colliers be brought to the necessary rendezvous with- 
out wireless messages? There existed in the Pacific only 
five German wireless stations, Yap, Apia, Nauru, Rabaul, 
Angaur, all of which were destroyed by us within two months 
of the outbreak of war. After that there remained only the 
wireless on board the German ships, with which it was very 
dangerous to breathe a word into the ether. Such was the 
situation of Admiral von Spee. 

The problem of the Admiralty was also delicate and com- 
plex. All our enterprises lay simultaneously under the shadow 
of a serious potential danger. You could make scare schemes 
which showed that von Spee might turn up with his whole 


squadron almost anywhere. On the other hand, we could 
not possibly be strong enough every day everywhere to meet 
him. We had, therefore, either to balance probabilities and 
run risks, or reduce our movements and affairs to very narrow 
limits. Absolute security meant something very like abso- 
lute paralysis; yet fierce would have been the outcry attendant 
either upon stagnation or disaster. We decided deliberately 
to carry on our affairs and to take the risk. After all, the 
oceans were as wide for us as for von Spee. The map of 
the world in the Admiralty War Room measured 20 feet 
by 30. Being a seaman's map, its centre was filled by the 
greatest mass of water on the globe: the enormous areas of 
the Pacific filled upwards of 300 square feet. On this map 
the head of an ordinary veil-pin represented the full view to 
be obtained from the masts of a ship on a clear day. There 
was certainly plenty of room for ships to miss one another. 

As has been stated, the British China squadron mobilised 
and concentrated at Hong-Kong, and the Australian Navy 
at Sydney. Admiral von Spee was at Ponape in the Caro- 
line Islands when Great Britain declared war upon Germany. 
From Hong-Kong and Sydney to Ponape the distances were 
each about 2,750 miles. Although Japan had not yet entered 
the war, the German Admiral did not attempt to return to 
Kiaochau, as this might have involved immediate battle with 
the British China Squadron. He proceeded only as far as 
the Ladrone Islands (German), where the Emden from Kiao- 
chau, escorting his supply ships, met him on August 12. He 
sent the Emden into the Indian Ocean to prey on commerce 
and turned himself eastward towards the Marshall Islands. 
On August 22 he detached the Number g to Honolulu to ob- 
tain information and send messages, to cut the cable between 
Canada and New Zealand, and to rejoin him at Christmas 
Island on September 8. Here he was in the very centre of 
the Pacific. 

The Admiralty knew nothing of these movements beyond 


a report that he was coaling at the Caroline Islands on 
August 9. Thereafter he vanished completely from our view. 
We could know nothing for certain. The theory of the Ad- 
miralty Staff, however, endorsed by Admiral Sir Henry Jack- 
son, who was making a special and profound study of this the- 
atre, was that he would go to the Marshall Islands and there- 
after would most probably work across to the west coast of 
South America, or double the Horn on his way back to Europe. 
This theory, and the intricate reasoning by which it was sup- 
ported, proved to be correct. In the main, though we could 
by no means trust ourselves to it and always expected un- 
pleasant surprises, it was our dominant hypothesis. It is on 
this basis that the operations in the Pacific should be studied. 

As early as August 2 the New Zealand Government — ever 
in the van of the Empire — had convinced themselves that 
war was inevitable, and had already made proposals for rais- 
ing forces and striking at the enemy. The Operations Divi- 
sion of the War Staff proposed in consequence the capture of 
Samoa and the destruction of the wireless station there; and 
this was recommended to me by the First Sea Lord and the 
Chief of the Staff as a feasible operation. By August 8 New 
Zealand telegraphed that if a naval escort could be furnished 
the expedition to attack Samoa could start on August 11. 
The staff concurred in this, holding that the Gneisenau and 
Scharnhorst were adequately covered by the Australian squad- 
ron. I assented the same day. It was arranged that the ex- 
pedition should meet the battle-cruiser Australia and the 
French cruiser Montcalm at or on the way to Noumea. 

Another expedition from Australia to attack German New 
Guinea had also been organised by the Government of the 
Commonwealth. The uncertainty about the Scharnhorst and 
Gneisenau invested all movements in those waters with a 
certain hazardous delicacy. It was thought, however, that 
the light cruisers Melbourne 1 and Sydney could convoy the 
1 Encounter went instead of Melbourne. 


Commonwealth New Guinea expedition northward, keeping 
inside the Barrier Reef, and that before they came out into 
open waters the New Guinea convoy could be joined by Aus- 
tralia and Montcalm, who would by then have completed the 
escort of the New Zealand expedition to Samoa. We thought 
it above all things important that these expeditions, once 
they had landed and taken possession of the German colonies, 
should be self-sufficing, and that no weak warships should 
be left in the harbours to support them. Any such vessels, 
apart from the difficulty of sparing them, would be an easy 
prey for the two large German cruisers. 

Samoa was occupied on the 30th August. The wireless 
station at Nauru was destroyed on the 10th September. The 
Australian contingent was picked up by the battle-cruiser 
Australia on September 9 and arrived at Rabaul safely two 
days later. 

We had now to provide for the Australian convoy to Eu- 
rope which was due to leave Sydney on September 27 for 
Port Adelaide, where they would be joined by the New Zea- 
land contingent and its own escort as well as by the 'Aus- 
tralian Fleet' (Australia, Sydney and Melbourne) as soon as 
they were free from the New Guinea expedition. Our orig- 
inal proposal for the escort of the Australian Army was, there- 
fore, Australia, Sydney and Melbourne, with the small cruisers 
from New Zealand. To cover the Commonwealth during the 
absence of all her Fleet, it was arranged that the Minotaur, 
together with the Japanese Ibuki and Chikuma, should come 
south to New Britain Islands. 

In the middle of September the New Zealand contingent 
was due to sail for Adelaide. The Australia and her consorts 
were still delayed in New Guinea, where some delay was caused 
by the German resistance. Great anxiety was felt in New Zea- 
land at the prospect of throwing their contingent across to 
Australia with no better escort than the two P class cruisers. 
They pointed out the dangers from the Scharnhorst and Gnei- 


senau, which on September 14 had been reported off Samoa. 
The Admiralty view was that it was most improbable the 
Schamhorst and Gneisenau could know of the contemplated 
New Zealand expedition, still less of the date of its sailing; 
that in order to deliver an attack in New Zealand waters they 
would have to steam far from their coaling bases north of 
the Equator, and would indeed have to be accompanied by 
their colliers, greatly reducing their speed and hampering 
their movements. In these circumstances the Admiralty 
foresaw but little danger to the New Zealand convoy in the 
first part of their voyage, were unable to provide further pro- 
tection for this stage, and expressed the opinion that the risk 
should be accepted. To this decision the New Zealand Gov- 
ernment bowed on September 21, and it was settled that the 
New Zealand convoy should sail on the 25th. Meanwhile, 
however, renewed exploits by the Emden in the Bay of Ben- 
gal created a natural feeling of alarm in the mind of the New 
Zealand and Australian public; and without prejudice to our 
original view, we decided to make arrangements to remove 
these apprehensions. 

On the 24th news arrived that the New Guinea expedition 
had successfully overcome all opposition, and we then deter- 
mined on the following change of plans, viz. Minotaur and 
Ibuki to go to Wellington and escort the New Zealanders to 
Adelaide, while Australia and Montcalm, after convoying the 
auxiliaries and weak warships back from New Guinea to 
within the shelter of the Barrier Reef, should hunt for the 
Schamhorst and Gneisenau in the Marshall Islands, whither 
it seemed probable they were proceeding. This decision al- 
tered the composition of the escort of the Australian convoy, 
and their protection across the Pacific and Indian Oceans 
was to an important extent confided to a vessel which flew 
the war flag of Japan. This historic fact should be an addi- 
tional bond of goodwill among the friendly and allied nations 
who dwell in the Pacific. 


Meanwhile the depredations of the Emden in the Bay of 
Bengal continued. On the 22nd she appeared off Madras, 
bombarded the Burma Company's oil tanks, and threw a 
few shells into the town before she was driven off by the bat- 
teries. This episode, following on the disturbance of the Cal- 
cutta-Colombo trade route and the numerous and almost 
daily sinkings of merchant ships in the Bay of Bengal, created 
widespread alarm, and on October 1 I sent the following min- 
ute to the First Sea Lord, proposing, inter alia, a concen- 
tration on a large scale in Indian waters against the Emden. 
This concentration would comprise Hampshire, Yarmouth, 
Sydney, Melbourne, Chikuma (Japan), Zemchug and Askold 
(Russian), Psyche, Pyramus and Philomel — a total of ten — 
and was capable of being fully effective in about a month. 

Secretary. October 1, 1914. 

Chief of Staff. 
First Sea Lord. 

Three transports, empty but fitted for carrying cavalry, 
are delayed in Calcutta through fear of Emden. This involves 
delaying transport of artillery and part of a cavalry division 
from Bombay. The Cabinet took a serious view, and pressed 
for special convoy. Have you any ship ? I should be very 
sorry to interrupt the offensive operations against Emden for 
the sake of convoying three empty transports. I was inclined 
to recommend that the three should put to sea at night with 
lights out and steer wide of the track. It is 100 to 1 that they 
would get round safely, and a 1,000 to 1 that two out of the 
three would get round safely. Let me have your proposals at 
once. It is clear that the transports have got to go. 1 

3|C 3|C #f* 5p 5JC 

Now that Scharnhorst and Gneisenau have been located in 
the Society Islands there is no need for Melbourne and Sydney 
to remain in Australasian waters. Sydney should immediately 
be ordered to join Hampshire, Yarmouth and Chikuma in the 
Emden hunt, and Melbourne should come there with the Aus- 
tralasian convoy. As soon as Zemchug and Askold have fin- 

1 They went without escort and without mishap. 


ished with their convoy, they should return and join Hamp- 
shire. This will give seven ships searching for Emden and 
avoid the necessity of moving one of the three Light Cruisers 
now hunting Konigsberg. Numbers are everything, and the 
extirpation of these pests is a most important object. 

What is the use of Psyche, Pyramus and Philomel in New 
Zealand waters after the convoy has started ? There is noth- 
ing but the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau to be considered, and 
they are sufficiently dealt with by — 

(i) Australia. 

(2) First Japanese Squadron. 

(3) Second Japanese Squadron. 

On the other hand, these three vessels, together with Pioneer, 
would be good for searching for Emden in company with the 
faster and more powerful ships. I propose, therefore, that 
they should accompany the Australian and New Zealand con- 
voys home to Indian waters, and should then join up with the 
seven Cruisers which will then be under Hampshire in hunting 
Emden, making a total of ten vessels available a month from 
now. The necessary arrangements to enable them, in spite of 
their limited fuel capacity, to get to Colombo can easily be 
made. In the event of Emden being captured before this con- 
centration is complete, all these vessels should be sent to assist 
in the hunt for Konigsberg, or, conversely, if Konigsberg is 
caught, the three Light Cruisers should turn over to the 
Emden. It is no use stirring about the oceans with two or three 
ships. When we have got Cruiser sweeps of 8 or 10 vessels 
ten or fifteen miles apart there will be some good prospect 
of utilising information as to the whereabouts of the Emden 
in such a way as to bring her to action. Such large and de- 
cisive measures are much the cheapest and most satisfactory 
in the end. W S C 

And again on October 15. 

Sydney should escort Australians and thereafter hunt 

This shot as will presently be seen went home. 


The press and the public were not in a position to under- 
stand all that the Admiralty were doing nor to appreciate 
the general results achieved. All they saw at this time was 
that a few German cruisers were apparently doing whatever 
they chose upon the oceans and sinking British merchantmen 
day after day. A great deal of discontent began to make 
itself heard and felt. I therefore prepared a note for pub- 
lication in the hopes of placating our critics. 

October 24, 1914. 
The Secretary of the Admiralty makes the following state- 
ment in regard to the capture and destruction of British mer- 
chant ships by German warships: — 

Eight or nine German cruisers are believed to be at large 
in the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Indian Oceans. Search- 
ing for these vessels and working in concert under the vari- 
ous Commanders-in-Chief are upwards of 70 British (includ- 
ing Australian), Japanese, French, and Russian cruisers, not 
including auxiliary cruisers. Among these are a number of 
the fastest British cruisers. The vast expanses of sea and 
ocean and the many thousand islands of the archipelagos of- 
fer an almost infinite choice of movement to the enemy's 
ships. In spite of every effort to cut off their coal supply, 
it has hitherto been maintained by one means or another in 
the face of increasing difficulties. 

The discovery and destruction of these few enemy cruisers 
is therefore largely a matter of time, patience, and good luck. 
The public should have confidence that the Commanders-in- 
Chief and the experienced captains serving under them are 
doing all that is possible and taking the best steps to bring 
the enemy to action. They have so far been also occupied 
in very serious and important convoy duty, but this work 
has somewhat lessened and the number of searching cruisers 
is continually augmented. 

Meanwhile, merchant ships must observe Admiralty in- 
structions, which it is obviously impossible to specify, and 
use all the precautions which have been suggested. On routes 
where these instructions have been followed, they have so 


far proved very effective. On the other hand, where they 
have been disregarded captures have been made. The same 
vastness of sea which has so far enabled the German cruisers 
to avoid capture will protect the trade. 

The only alternative to the methods now adopted would 
be the marshalling of merchantmen in regular convoys at 
stated intervals. So far it has not been thought necessary 
to hamper trade by enforcing such a system. The percent- 
age of loss is much less than was reckoned on before the war. 
Out of 4,000 British ships engaged in foreign trade only 39 
have been sunk by the enemy, or just under 1 per cent, in all. 

The rate of insurance for cargoes, which on the outbreak 
of war was fixed at 5 guineas per cent., has now been reduced 
to 2 guineas per cent, without injury to the solvency of the 
fund. For hulls, as apart from cargoes, the insurance has 
also been considerably reduced. Between 8,000 and 9,000 
foreign voyages have been undertaken to and from United 
Kingdom ports, less than five per thousand of which have 
been interfered with, and of these losses a large number have 
been caused by merchant vessels taking everything for granted 
and proceeding without precautions as if there were no war. 

On the other hand, the German oversea trade has prac- 
tically ceased to exist. Nearly all their fast ships which could 
have been used as auxiliary cruisers were promptly penned 
into neutral harbours or have taken refuge in their own. 
Among the comparatively few German ships which have put 
to sea, 133 have been captured, or nearly four times the num- 
ber of those lost by the very large British mercantile marine. 

In these circumstances, there is no occasion for anxiety 
and no excuse for complaint. On the contrary, the more 
fully the facts concerning our oversea trade and its protection 
by the Royal Navy can be disclosed, and the more attentively 
they are studied, the greater will be the confidence and satis- 
faction with which the situation can be viewed. 

The various changes of plan necessary to meet the natural 
anxieties of the New Zealand Government entailed a delay 
of three weeks in the sailing of the Australian convoy. This, 
Lord Kitchener declared, made no difference, as they could 
continue their indispensable training equally well in Australia. 


By October 25, when the convoy was about to sail, the 
rebellion in South Africa introduced another disturbing ele- 
ment. It was decided by the Cabinet on that date to make 
arrangements for the Australian and New Zealand Army 
Corps to come via the Cape instead of via the Suez Canal, 
so as to be available in South Africa if need be. Alternative 
arrangements of a complicated nature were therefore pre- 
pared. On the 30th, however, in view of later advices from 
South Africa, it was arranged for the whole convoy to pro- 
ceed together to Colombo and for the decision about the last 
part of the route to be delayed until then. The convoy started 
on November 1 under the escort of the Minotaur, Ibuki, Mel- 
bourne and Sydney. 

Before they reached Colombo the Sydney found her quarry 
and the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was more 
needed in Egypt than at the Cape. But this will appear in 
its proper place. 

It remained to carry the Canadian Army across the At- 
lantic. Upwards of 25,000 volunteers of a very high in- 
dividual quality, partially trained in Valcartier camp, were 
embarked in the St. Lawrence in a convoy of thirty-one ships, 
to which were added two ships carrying the Newfoundland 
contingent and a British battalion from Bermuda. Rear- 
Admiral Wemyss with a squadron of light cruisers was en- 
trusted with the actual duties of escort, but the essential 
protection of the convoy was secured by far more distant 
and powerful agencies. All the Cruiser Squadrons of the 
Grand Fleet were spread in two lines between the coasts of 
Norway and Scotland to guard against a sortie by the Ger- 
man fast vessels, and the Grand Fleet itself remained at sea 
in their support to the northward. The North American 
Squadron under Rear-Admiral Hornby covered the German 
merchant cruisers which were lurking in New York Harbour. 


Two old battleships, the Glory and the Majestic, were ordered 
to meet the convoy at a rendezvous well off the beaten track, 
and Admiral Hornby himself in the Lancaster accompanied 
them the first portion of the route. Lastly, the Princess Royal 
was detached from the Grand Fleet to meet the convoy in 
mid- Atlantic and thus guard against any German battle- 
cruiser which might conceivably have slipped through the 
wide areas patrolled by Sir John Jellicoe. The movements 
of the Princess Royal were kept secret from everybody, and 
even the Canadian Government, in spite of their natural 
anxiety, were denied this reassurance. 

The convoy sailed on October 3 and ten days later safely 
approached the mouth of the English Channel. The inten- 
tion had been to disembark the Canadian troops at Ports- 
mouth, where all arrangements had been made for them. 
But on the very day they were due to arrive a German sub- 
marine was reported off Cherbourg and another was sighted 
off the Isle of Wight by the Portsmouth Defence Flotilla. 
On this we insisted, whatever the military inconvenience, 
on turning the whole convoy into Plymouth. During Oc- 
tober 14 this armada bearing the first flower of the martial 
spirit of Canada was safely berthed in Plymouth Sound. 

With this event, all the initial movements in the Imperial 
concentration had been completed. They had comprised the 
transportation of the equivalent of 5 divisions from India 
to Europe and their replacement by 3 divisions of Ter- 
ritorials from England; the collection of the 7th and 8th divi- 
sions from all the garrisons and fortresses of the British Em- 
pire with consequential replacements from home and from 
India; the transportation of approximately two divisions 
from Canada to England; and lastly — though this was not 
finished till December — that of approximately two divisions 
from Australia and New Zealand to Egypt. The effect of 
this concentration was to add a reinforcement of 5 British 
regular divisions (7th, 8th, 27th, 28th and 29th) and 2 



OCTOBER 1914. 

The chart includes battle- 
ships, battlecruiscrs.cruisers, 
light cruisers, sloops and 
armed merchant cruisers. 

Armoured vessels are 
shown in capitals, but other- 
wise no attempt has been 
made to discriminate be- 
tween classes. 

Allied vesselshave been in- 
cluded where their presence 
affects the situation. They 
are distinguished by having 
the initial letter of their 
nationality placed after their 

F. French. 

J. Japanese. 

R. Russian. 


Anglo-Indian divisions to the regular forces immediately 
available to support the 6 regular divisions with which we 
had begun the war, raising our Army in France by the 
end of November to approximately 13 divisions of highly 
trained long-service troops. In addition the 4 Canadian 
and Australian divisions were completing their training in 
England and Egypt, and were held to be in a more advanced 
state of preparation than the 10 divisions of Territorials 
which remained in England or the 24 divisions of the New 
Armies which Lord Kitchener was raising. The whole busi- 
ness of transportation by sea while all the enemy's cruisers 
were still at large had been conducted without accident of 
any kind or without the loss of a single ship or a single life. 


'This battle fares like to the morning's war, 
When dying clouds contend with growing light, 
What time the shepherd, blowing of his nails, 
Can neither call it, perfect day nor night. 
Now sways it this way, like a mighty sea, 
Forced by the tide to combat with the wind; 
Now sways it that way, like the selfsame sea, 
Forced to retire by fury of the wind: 
Some time the flood prevails, and then the wind; 
Now one the better, then another best; 
Both tugging to be victors, breast to breast, 

Yet neither conquerors nor conquered: 
So is the equal poise of the fell war.' 

Henry VI. Part III. 

Action of August 28 in the Heligoland Bight — Fate of the German 
Light Cruisers — Paralysis of German Naval Enterprise — The 
Ostend Demonstration — The Royal Naval Air Service — The Air 
Situation at the Outbreak of War — The Admiralty take Charge 
at Home — The Zeppelin Menace and the 'Hornets' — Offence the 
true Defence — Beginning of the Dunkirk Guerrilla — Samson's 
Aeroplanes — The Armoured Cars — First dawn of the Tank idea 
— General Joffre's request — The Omnibus Brigade — An Em- 
barrassing Responsibility — The Sinking of the Aboukir, Hogue 
and Cressy. 

I NOW have to chronicle a brilliant episode which came 
at a most timely moment and throughout which we en- 
joyed the best of good luck. My insistent desire to develop 
a minor offensive against the Germans in the Heligoland Bight 
led to conferences with Commodore Tyrwhitt, who com- 
manded the light cruisers and destroyers of 'The Harwich 
Striking Force,' and Commodore Keyes, the head of the Sub- 
marine Service also stationed at Harwich. On August 23 



Commodore Keyes called personally upon me at the Ad- 
miralty with a proposal for 'a well-organised drive commenc- 
ing before dawn from inshore close to the enemy's coast/ 
On the 24th I presided at a meeting in my room between him 
and Commodore Tyrwhitt and the First Sea Lord and the 
Chief of the Staff. 

The plan which the two Commodores then outlined was 
at once simple and daring. Since the first hours of the war 
our submarines had prowled about in the Heligoland Bight. 
They had now accumulated during a period of three weeks 
accurate information about the dispositions of the enemy. 
They knew that he was in the habit of keeping a flotilla of 
destroyers attended by a couple of small cruisers, cruising and 
patrolling each night to the North of Heligoland, and that 
these were accustomed to be relieved shortly after daylight 
by a second flotilla which worked on a much less extended 
beat. They proposed to take two flotillas of our best de- 
stroyers and two light cruisers from Harwich by night and 
reach just before dawn a point inside the Northern Coast of 
the Heligoland Bight not far from the island of Sylt. From 
this point they would make a left-handed scoop inshore, falling 
upon and chasing back the outcoming flotilla if they met it, 
and then would all turn together in a long line abreast West- 
ward towards home to meet and if possible destroy the in- 
coming German flotilla. Six British submarines in two divi- 
sions would take part in the operation so as to attack the 
German heavy ships should they come out, and two battle- 
cruisers (the Invincible and New Zealand) then stationed at 
the Humber would act as support. 

Such was in short the plan proposed by these officers and 
approved by the First Sea Lord. Action was fixed for the 
28th. As soon as Sir John Jellicoe was informed of these in- 
tentions, he offered to send in further support three battle- 
cruisers and six light cruisers. He did more. He sent Sir 
David Beatty. The result was a success which far exceeded 


the hopes of the Admiralty, and produced results of a far- 
reaching character upon the whole of the naval war. 

At dawn on the 28th, Admiral Tyrwhitt's flotillas, led by 
the Arethusa and Fearless, reached their point of attack and, 
in the words of Admiral Scheer, ' broke into the Heligoland 
Bight.' The enemy was taken by surprise. The weather 
near the land was increasingly misty. The Heligoland bat- 
teries came into action, but without effect. The German 
battleships and battle-cruisers could not cross the bar of the 
outer Jade owing to the tide till 1 p.m. Only the German 
light cruisers on patrol or close at hand in the Elbe or the 
Ems could come to the aid of their flotillas. A confused, dis- 
persed and prolonged series of combats ensued between the 
flotillas and light cruisers and continued until after four o'clock 
in the afternoon. During all this time the British light forces 
were rampaging about the enemy's most intimate and 
jealously guarded waters. 

Very little, however, turned out as had been planned. 
Owing to a mischance, arising primarily from a fault in Ad- 
miralty staff work, the message apprising Commodores Keyes 
and Tyrwhitt of the presence of Admiral Beatty with his 
additional battle cruisers and light cruisers, did not reach 
them in time; nor was Admiral Beatty aware of the areas in 
which the British submarines were working. Several awk- 
ward embarrassments followed from this and might easily 
have led to disastrous mistakes. However, fortune was 
steady, and the initial surprise together with the resolute 
offensive carried us safely through. The German light cruisers 
precipitately proceeding to the assistance of their flotillas and 
animated by the hopes of cutting off our own, ran into the 
British battle-cruisers. Admiral Beatty, in spite not only of 
the risk of mines and submarines, but also — for all he could 
know — of meeting superior forces, had with extraordinary 
audacity led his squadron far into the Bight. Two enemy 
cruisers (the Ariadne and the Koln) were smashed to pieces 


by the enormous shells of the Lion and the Princess Royal: 
a third (the Mainz) was sunk by the light cruisers and de- 
stroyers. Three others (the Frauenlob, Strassburg and the 
Stettin) limped home with many casualties. One German 
destroyer was sunk. The rest in the confusion and light mist 
escaped, though several were injured. 

The good news trickled into the Admiralty during the day, 
but for some time we were very anxious about the Arethusa. 
A feed-pipe had been smashed by a shell and her steaming 
power was reduced to seven or eight knots. However, she 
returned unmolested to the Thames. 

Not a single British ship was sunk or, indeed, seriously 
injured; and our casualties did not exceed thirty-five killed 
and about forty wounded, in spite of the fact that, in the 
words of the German Lieutenant Tholens, 'The English ships 
made the greatest efforts to pick up the survivors.' 1 Two 
hundred and twenty-four Germans, many desperately 
wounded, were rescued in circumstances of much danger by 
Commodore Keyes on the destroyer Lurcher, and brought to 
England. Considerably more than a thousand Germans, in- 
cluding the Flotilla Admiral and the Destroyer Commodore, 
perished. A son of Admiral von Tirpitz was among the 
prisoners. Much more important, however, than these ma- 
terial gains was the effect produced upon the morale of the 
enemy. The Germans knew nothing of our defective Staff 
work and of the risks we had run. All they saw was that 
the British did not hesitate to hazard their greatest vessels 
as well as their light craft in the most daring offensive action 
and had escaped apparently unscathed. They felt as we 
should have felt had German destroyers broken into the 
Solent and their battle-cruisers penetrated as far as the Nab. 
The results of this action were far-reaching. Henceforward 
the weight of British naval prestige lay heavy across all Ger- 
man sea enterprise. Upon the Emperor the impression pro- 
1 Admiral Scheer, p. 52. 


duced was decisive. Thus Scheer (p. 57): 'The restrictions 
imposed on the Battle Fleet were adhered to/ And still more 
explicit, von Tirpitz (p. 357): ' . . . August 28th, a day- 
fateful, both in its after effects and incidental results, for the 
work of our navy. . . . The Emperor did not want losses 
of this sort. . . . Orders were issued by the Emperor . . . 
after an audience to Pohl, to which I as usual was not sum- 
moned, to restrict the initiative of the Commander-in-Chief 
of the North Sea Fleet: the loss of ships was to be avoided, 
fleet sallies and any greater undertakings must be approved 
by His Majesty in advance,' etc. On von Tirpitz protesting 
against 'this muzzling policy' . . . 'there sprang up from 
that day forth an estrangement between the Emperor and 
myself, which steadily increased.' 

The German Navy was indeed 'muzzled.' Except for fur- 
tive movements by individual submarines and minelayers not 
a dog stirred from August till November. Meanwhile our 
strength, both offensive afloat and defensive in our harbours, 
was steadily and rapidly increasing. 

The news of this naval action reached the French and British 
armies in the dark hour before the dawn of victory and was 
everywhere published to the retreating troops. 1 

As the German armies pressed forward towards Paris they 
turned the back of their right shoulder increasingly towards 
the sea. The Belgian Army making a sortie from Antwerp 
struck towards the German lines of communication and 
endeavoured to hamper and delay the great advance. In 
order to help the Belgians and to take some pressure off our 
own hard-pressed Army, the Admiralty, in consultation with 
Lord Kitchener, attempted to make a diversion. A brigade of 
Marines was disembarked, covered by warships (Aug. 26), at 
Ostend in the hopes that it would attract the attention of the 
1 See also Appendix. 


enemy and give him the impression that larger forces would 
follow from the sea. 

Telegram to Belgian Government. 

25. 8. 14. 
'In order to delay southward German advance and to create 
diversion favourable to the forward movement of the Belgian 
Army, Admiralty wish to send a brigade of Marines, 3,000 
strong, to Ostend at daylight, 26th, covered by battleships and 
cruisers accompanied by an aeroplane squadron. This brigade 
will push out reconnaissances to Bruges, Thourout, and Dix- 
mude, and will remain at Ostend to cover the disembarkation 
of a larger force should circumstances render that desirable. 
Do you agree ? If so, please send the necessary instructions 
to your local authorities. Publicity is useful in this case. The 
impression to be produced is that a considerable British army 
is landing/ 

Orders to General Aston. 

25. 8. 14. 

c i. At daylight to-morrow, if circumstances allow, you will 
disembark such portions of your brigade as have arrived at 
Ostend and occupy the town. You will push out reconnais- 
sances of cyclists to Bruges, Thourout, and Dixmude. You 
will establish yourself at Ostend, forming an entrenched 
picket line around the town in such a way as to enable you to 
cover the debarkation of a Division of the Army. A squadron 
of aeroplanes will reach you before noon, having previously 
made an aerial reconnaissance of the country within 30 miles 
of Ostend. The aeroplanes will be placed under your orders. 

'2. The object of this movement is to create a diversion, 
favourable to the Belgians, who are advancing from Antwerp 
and to threaten the western flank of the German southward 
advance. It should therefore be ostentatious. You should 
not advance inland from Ostend without further orders, but 
some enterprise may be permitted to the patrols. Informa- 
tion about the enemy will be supplied you personally at the 

'The object in view would be fully attained if a considerable 
force of the enemy were attracted to the coast. You will be 
re-embarked as soon as this is accomplished. ' 


To give further publicity I announced in the House of 
Commons that a British force had begun landing at Ostend. 
The Marines remained on shore for the best part of a week 
and were then withdrawn. The old battleships and cruisers 
which covered them were no doubt in more danger from sub- 
marines than we thought at the time, but no mishap occurred; 
nor was there any loss ashore or afloat. There was no means 
at the time of knowing whether this petty operation exercised 
any appreciable influence on German movements. We now 
know that it was certainly a factor. The Head of the Opera- 
tions Branch of the German General Staff in his narrative 
shows that the news of this landing reached Main Head- 
quarters on August 30. He says: — 

'One day countless British troops were said to have landed 
at Ostend and to be marching on Antwerp; on another that 
there were about to be great sorties from Antwerp. Even 
landings of Russian troops, 80,000 men, at Ostend were men- 
tioned. At Ostend a great entrenched camp for the English 
was in preparation.' 

General Dupont, the French Director of Military Intelli- 
gence, goes much further and ranks the Belgian sortie as a 
culminating element in the German decision to make a gen- 
eral retreat, taken on September io. 1 

An unbroken chain of events drew the Admiralty again to 
the Belgian Coast; and to explain this a digression is necessary. 

Before the war the British air force was divided into the 
Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, the former 
of which were to be concerned with aeroplanes and the latter 
with hydro-aeroplanes, or seaplanes as I christened them for 
short. The War Office claimed on behalf of the Royal Flying 
Corps complete and sole responsibility for the aerial defence of 
Great Britain. But owing to the difficulties of getting money, 
they were unable to make any provision for this responsibility, 

dupont, 'Haut Commandment Allemand en 1914,' p. 92. 


every aeroplane they had being earmarked for the Expedi- 
tionary Force. Seeing this and finding myself able to procure 
funds by various shifts and devices, I began in 191 2 and 1913, 
to form under the Royal Naval Air Service flights of aero- 
planes as well as of seaplanes for the aerial protection of our 
naval harbours, oil tanks and vulnerable points, and also for 
a general strengthening of our exiguous and inadequate avia- 
tion. In consequence I had in my own hand on the eve of 
the war fifty efficient naval machines, or about one-third of 
the number in possession of the Army. The War Office viewed 
this development with disfavour, and claimed that they alone 
should be charged with the responsibility for home defence. 
When asked how they proposed to discharge this duty, they 
admitted sorrowfully that they had not got the machines and 
could not get the money. They adhered however to the prin- 

When the war began the situation foreseen arose. The 
whole of the military aeroplanes went to France at once with 
the Expeditionary Force, and not a single squadron or even 
an effective machine remained to guard British vulnerable 
points from German aerial attack. The Admiralty was, how- 
ever, found provided with a respectable force of its own which 
immediately took over the protection of our dockyards and 
patrolled our shores in connection with the coast watch. 

As the Germans overran Belgium and all the Channel ports 
were exposed, the danger of air attacks upon Great Britain 
became most serious and real. Zeppelins had already cruised 
over Antwerp, and it was known that London was in range 
of the Zeppelin sheds at Diisseldorf and Cologne. To meet 
this danger there was nothing except the naval aeroplanes 
the Admiralty had been able to scrape and smuggle together. 
On September 3 Lord Kitchener asked me in Cabinet whether 
I would accept, on behalf of the Admiralty, the responsibility 
for the aerial defence of Great Britain, as the War Office had 
no means of discharging it. I thereupon undertook to do 


what was possible with the wholly inadequate resources which 
were available. There were neither anti-aircraft guns nor 
searchlights, and though a few improvisations had been made, 
nearly a year must elapse before the efficient supplies necessary 
could be forthcoming. Meanwhile at any moment half a 
dozen Zeppelins might arrive to bomb London or, what was 
more serious, Chatham, Woolwich or Portsmouth. 

I rated the Zeppelin much lower as a weapon of war than 
almost any one else. I believed that this enormous bladder of 
combustible and explosive gas would prove to be easily destruc- 
tible. I was sure the fighting aeroplane, rising lightly laden 
from its own base, armed with incendiary bullets, would harry, 
rout and burn these gaseous monsters. I had proclaimed this 
opinion to the House of Commons in 1913, using the often- 
quoted simile of the hornets. 

I therefore did everything in my power in the years betore 
the war to restrict expenditure upon airships and to concen- 
trate our narrow and stinted resources upon aeroplanes. I 
confined the naval construction of airships to purely experi- 
mental limits, and in April, 191 5, when the slow progress and 
inferior quality of our only rigid experimental airship were 
manifest, I gave orders that it should be scrapped, the plant 
broken up and the labour and material devoted to increasing 
the output of aeroplanes. Had I had my way, no airships 
would have been built by Great Britain during the war (except 
the little ' Blimps ' for teasing submarines). After I left the 
Admiralty this policy was reversed, and forty millions of 
money were squandered by successive Boards in building 
British Zeppelins, not one of which on any occasion ever ren- 
dered any effective fighting service. Meanwhile the alter- 
native policy of equipping the Fleet with aerial observation 
by flying aeroplanes off warships or off properly constructed 
carriers lagged pitifully with the result that at the Battle of 
Jutland we had no British airships and only one aeroplane in 
the air. 


The hornet theory, at one time so fiercely derided, was, of 
course, ultimately vindicated by the war. Zeppelins were 
clawed down in flames from the sky over both land and sea 
by aeroplanes until they did not dare to come any more. The 
aeroplane was the means by which the Zeppelin menace was 
destroyed, and it was virtually the only means, apart from 
weather and their own weakness, by which Zeppelins were 
ever destroyed. 

However, although my thought was perfectly sound in 
principle and the policy following from it was unquestionably 
right, we were not in a position at the beginning of the war to 
produce effective results. Aeroplane engines were not power- 
ful enough to reach the great heights needed for the attack of 
Zeppelins in the short time available. Night flying had only 
just been born; the location of aircraft by sound was unknown; 
the network of telephones and observation points was non- 
existent. And here was the danger, certainly real and not 
easy to measure, literally on top of us. 

It was easy to order the necessary guns, searchlights, etc., 
and set on foot the organisation which should produce and 
employ them. But it was no use sitting down and waiting 
for a year while these preparations were completing. Only 
offensive action could help us. I decided immediately to 
strike, by bombing from aeroplanes, at the Zeppelin sheds 
wherever these gigantic structures could be found in Germany 
and secondly, to prevent the erection of any new Zeppelin 
sheds in the conquered parts of Belgium or France. Here 
again the policy was right. Our resources were, however, fee- 
ble and slender. Compared to the terrific developments at 
the end of the war, they were pitiful. Still, they were all we 
had, and all that our knowledge of aviation at that time could 
bestow. Deficiencies in material had to be made good by 
daring. All honour to the naval airmen, the pioneers of the 
aerial offensive, who planned and executed in these early 
months the desperate flights over hostile territory in an ele- 


ment then scarcely known, which resulted in the raids on 
Diisseldorf and Cologne on the Rhine, Friedricbshaven on 
Lake Constance, and Cuxhaven in the Heligoland Bight. 
Altogether in the first twelve months of the war six Zeppelins 
were destroyed in the air or in their sheds by the offensive 
action of a handful of British naval airmen; and few were 
destroyed by any other agency except accident. 

In order to strike at the Zeppelin sheds in Germany and to 
prevent the erection of new ones in Belgium, it was necessary 
to start from as near the enemy's line as possible. Extracts 
from my own minutes, principally to Captain Sueter, the 
enterprising and energetic Director of the Air Division, give 
as good an account as any other. 

Director of Air Division. ^ ' 9*4- 

Chief of Staff. 

The largest possible force of naval aeroplanes should be 
stationed in Calais or Dunkirk. Reports have been received, 
and it is also extremely probable, that the Germans will at- 
tempt to attack London and other places by Zeppelin airships, 
of which it is said a considerable number exist. The close 
proximity of the French coast to England renders such an 
attack thoroughly feasible. The proper defence is a thorough 
and continual search of the country for 70 to 100 miles inland 
with a view to marking down any temporary airship bases, or 
airships replenishing before starting to attack. Should such 
airships be located they should be immediately attacked. 
Commander Samson, with Major Gerrard as second in com- 
mand, will be entrusted with this duty; and the Director of 
Air Division will take all steps to supply them with the neces- 
sary pilots, aeroplanes and equipment. 

Secretary. September 3, 19 14. 

Director of Air Division. 
Third Sea Lord. 

Aerial searchlights must immediately be got ready for use 
in conjunction with the aerial guns. Propose me without de- 
lay the quickest means of meeting this need, with estimates of 


time and money. At least thirty or forty aerial searchlights 
are required. 'Vernon' 1 should co-operate. Drastic and 
energetic action is required. 

2. Let me have a return on one sheet of paper showing all 
anti-aircraft guns, regular or improvised, available afloat and 
ashore, at the present time; and what deliveries may be ex- 
pected in the next two months. Let me have also any sug- 
gestions for increasing their number. No one can doubt that 
aerial attack upon England must be a feature of the near 

Secretary. September 5, 19 14. 

First Sea Lord. 

Third Sea Lord. 

Chief of Staff. 

Director of Naval Ordnance. 

Director of Air Division. 

There can be no question of defending London by artillery 
against aerial attack. It is quite impossible to cover so vast 
an area; and if London, why not every other city ? Defence 
against aircraft by guns is limited absolutely to points of mili- 
tary value. . . . 

Far more important than London are the vulnerable points 
in the Medway and at Dover and Portsmouth. Oil-tanks, 
power-houses, lock-gates, magazines, airship sheds, all require 
to have their aerial guns increased in number. Portsmouth 
in particular requires attention now that enemy's territory 
has come so near. 

Aerial searchlights must be provided in connection with 
every group of guns. . . . 

But, after all, the great defence against aerial menace 
is to attack the enemy's aircraft as near as possible to their 
point of departure. Director of Air Division has already re- 
ceived directions on this. The principle is as follows: — 

(a) A strong oversea force of aeroplanes to deny the French 
and Belgian coasts to the enemy's aircraft, and to attack all 
Zeppelins and air bases or temporary air bases which it may 
be sought to establish, and which are in reach. 

(b) We must be in constant telegraphic and telephonic 

1 The Naval torpedo school centre. 


communication with the oversea aeroplane squadrons. We 
must maintain an intercepting force of aeroplanes and airships 
at some convenient point within range of a line drawn from 
Dover to London, and local defence flights at Eastchurch and 

(c) A squadron of aeroplanes will be established at Hen- 
don, also in telephonic communication with the other stations, 
for the purpose of attacking enemy aircraft which may attempt 
to molest London. Landing grounds must be prepared in all 
the parks; railings must be removed, and the area marked out 
by a large white circle by day and by a good system of lighting 
at night. It is indispensable that airmen of the Hendon flight 
should be able to fly by night, and their machines must be 
fitted with the necessary lights and instruments. 

Agreeably with the above, instructions must be prepared for 
the guidance of the Police, Fire Brigade, and civil population 
under aerial bombardment. This will have to be sustained 
with composure. Arrangements must be concerted with the 
Home Office and the Office of Works for the extinction of lights 
upon a well-conceived plan, for the clearance and illumination 
in the parks, in order that the defending aeroplanes can have 
freedom of action, etc. 

The whole of the points dealt with in this minute are to be 
elaborated and put into precise detail this afternoon by a 
Committee composed as follows: — 

Third Sea Lord (in the Chair). 

Director of Air Division. 

Director of Naval Ordnance. 

And a representative of the War Office from either the 
Master General of the Ordnance or Home Defence Depart- 

I expect to receive not later than to-morrow a definite pro- 
gramme for action within the lines of this minute. 

The whole matter is of the highest urgency. 

Secretary. September 5, 19 14. 

First Sea Lord. 
Director of Air Division. 

In order to discharge adequately the responsibilities which 
we have assumed for the aerial defence of England, it is neces- 
sary that we should maintain an aerial control over the area 


approximately 100 miles radius from Dunkirk. To do this, 
we must support the aeroplanes which are stationed on the 
French coast with sufficient armed motor cars and personnel 
to enable advanced subsidiary aeroplane bases to be estab- 
lished 30, 40 and 50 miles inland. 

According to all accounts received, the Germans, in so far 
as they have penetrated this region, have done it simply by 
bluff. Small parties of Uhlans, taking advantage of the 
terror inspired by their atrocities in Belgium, have made 
their way freely about the country, and have imposed them- 
selves upon the population. We require, in the first instance, 
200 or 300 men with 50 or 60 motor cars, who can support and 
defend our advanced aerial bases. I should propose to draw 
these by suitable volunteers from the Marine Brigade. They 
should be placed under the orders of Commander Samson, 
and should operate from Dunkirk. It will be necessary first 
to obtain permission from the French authorities. This, after 
consultation with Lord Kitchener, I am taking steps to do. 
We ought to be able to make it quite impossible for parties of 
15 or 20 Uhlans to make their way with safety through this 
area. During the next week the Germans will presume on 
their immunity, and will be found in occupation of numbers 
of places where they cannot possibly maintain any effective 
force. The advantage of an aeroplane reconnaissance is that 
the approach of any serious body of troops can be discovered 
while it is still at least two days' march away. There ought, 
therefore, to be no difficulty in chopping these small parties 
of the enemy without our force getting into any trouble. 

Propose me plans for immediate action on these lines in 

Secretary. 0ctober 2 ' ^ 

Director of Naval Ordnance. 
Director of the Air Division. 

The experiments with regard to projectiles for use against 
aircraft must be worked out on the most generous scale, eight 
or ten different lines being pursued simultaneously, the neces- 
sary funds being provided. It is perfectly useless in time of 
war to go through successively the whole series of experi- 
ments appropriate to peace-time administration. Let me 


have a report on the projectiles available. We must have 
means of attacking Zeppelins, not only with shells from guns, 
but with incendiary bullets or grenades from aeroplanes. 

The needs and activities of the naval aeroplanes in the 
neighbourhood of Dunkirk led directly to the development 
of the armoured car, and the armoured car led directly to 
the birth of the tank, which was in essence only an armoured 
car capable of crossing trenches. Almost immediately after 
the German inroad into Belgium, I received accounts of the 
remarkable work done by a Belgian motor-car, hastily 
equipped with armour and a machine gun, in shooting down 
and driving back the numerous Uhlans with which the enemy 
were seeking to overrun the country. Commander Samson 
was prompt to realise and seize the advantage of armoured 
cars for the purpose of protecting his aeroplane operations 
and also on their own account. In view of the reports re- 
ceived from him and other sources, I gave, during the latter 
part of August and September, successive orders for the forma- 
tion of armoured-car squadrons under the Admiralty; and as 
all this arose out of the aeroplane squadron stationed at Dun- 
kirk, the formation of the armoured-car squadrons was en- 
trusted to Commodore Sueter. In this task this officer dis- 
played great energy, and in a very short time no less than 
seven or eight squadrons were called into being, based on 
the purchase of all the Rolls-Royce cars that were available 
and rapidly improvised armour protection. 

The first few cars had scarcely begun to show their advan- 
tages in Commander Samson's guerrilla from Dunkirk when 
the difficulty which ultimately led to the creation of the tank 
manifested itself. The German cavalry sought to protect 
themselves against the attack of the armoured cars by dig- 
ging trenches across the road. 

To meet this, I gave the following directions: — 


Colonel Ollivant. September 23, 1914. 

Director of Air Division. 

Royal Naval Division Administration. 

It is most important that the motor transport and armed 
motor-cars should be provided to a certain extent with cars 
carrying the means of bridging small cuts in the road, and an 
arrangement of planks capable of bridging a ten- or twelve- 
feet span quickly and easily should be carried with every ten 
or twelve machines. A proportion of tools should also be 

Let me have proposals at once. 1 

Other conditions, however, swept down upon us very 
quickly, and by the middle of October, after the events to 
be narrated in the next chapters, the trench lines on both sides 
reached the sea and became continuous over the whole front. 
Thus at the moment when the new armoured-car force was 
coming into effective existence at much expense and on a 
considerable scale, it was confronted with an obstacle and a 
military situation which rendered its employment practically 
impossible. The conclusion was forced naturally and ob- 
viously upon me, and no doubt upon others, that if the ar- 
moured car on which so much money and labour had been 
spent could not move round the enemy's trenches and operate 
against an open flank of his army, some method should be 
devised which would enable it to traverse and pass over the 
trenches themselves. This subject will, however, be dealt 
with in its proper place. 

The air was the first cause that took us to Dunkirk. The 
armoured car was the child of the air; and the tank its grand- 

But besides all this the undefended condition of the Chan- 
nel ports against any serious effort by the enemy inspired 
the Admiralty with lively alarm. The danger of the Germans 

1 The first design of the Tank made at my request by Admiral Bacon 
in September, 19 14, carried a bridge in front which it dropped on ar- 
riving at a trench, passed over, and automatically raised behind it. 


taking Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne stared us in the face for 
many anxious weeks. On September 3 I minuted to the First 
Sea Lord : — 

'With the Germans along the French coast, modified dispo- 
sitions will become necessary. The danger from aerial attack 
must not be underrated. The possibility of the Germans tak- 
ing very heavy guns to Calais after taking the town, and 
getting submarines down from the Elbe to operate from 
Calais as a base, should also be considered. We could of 
course stop any surface craft, but submarines might slip 
through secretly and be a great nuisance when once established. 

On the 10th September I went to Dunkirk myself and was 
to some extent reassured. I made the following note at the 
time for the information of those concerned: — 

1 September 11, 1914. 

'The First Lord visited Dunkirk and Calais on the 10th in- 
stant, and conferred with the Governors of both places. 

' Dunkirk is being defended on a considerable scale, and has 
already developed substantial strength. Lines of defence are 
constructed on a radius of 4 to 6 miles approximately from the 
enceinte of the town, which are armed by over 400 pieces of 
artillery and held by 18,000 men. These works, which are 
strongly executed, can be further protected by large inunda- 
tions both of fresh and salt water. The fresh water inunda- 
tions are now accumulating; the salt can be turned on at any 
time in two days. The place should certainly require a siege 
in form to reduce it, and it is getting stronger every week. The 
First Lord promised the assistance of warships if required 
to cover the flanks. The anchorage at Dunkirk gives suf- 
ficient water for the Majestic class, and is certainly close to 
the shore. The high sandhills would require the fire to be in- 
direct, but otherwise there would be no difficulty. There is 
nothing to cause disquietude in the measures taken for the 
defence of Dunkirk. It seems probable that they are sufficient 
to make it not worth while for the enemy to undertake the re- 
duction of the fortress. 

t Calais is simply an enceinte rather larger in extent than 


that of Dunkirk, and protected by a few well-executed outlying 
fieldworks. All that can be said about Calais is that it could 
not be taken by a coup de main. It is garrisoned by 7,000 
troops, but it could certainly not be counted on to hold out 
for more than a few days against a determined attack.' 

In the third week of September Marshal Joffre telegraphed 
to Lord Kitchener asking whether a Brigade of Marines could 
not be sent to Dunkirk to reinforce the garrison and to con- 
fuse the enemy with the idea of British as well as French forces 
being in this area. Lord Kitchener asked me whether the 
Admiralty would help in this matter. I agreed to send the 
brigade if he would also send some Yeomanry Cavalry for its 
local protection. He sent a regiment. I was thus led, though 
by no means unwillingly, into accepting a series of minor 
responsibilities of a very direct and personal kind, which made 
inroads both upon my time and thought and might well — 
though I claim they did not — have obscured my general view. 
I formed a small administration to handle the business, in 
which Colonel Ollivant 1 was the moving spirit. On his sug- 
gestion we took fifty motor omnibuses from the London streets 
so as to make our Marines as mobile as possible, and very 
soon we had British detachments ostentatiously displaying 
themselves in Ypres, Lille, Tournai and Douai. Many risks 
were run by those engaged in these petty operations, first 
under General Aston and subsequently when his health had 
failed, under General Paris. No mishap occurred either to 
the Marines or to the Yeomanry. They played their part in 
the general scheme without loss or misadventure. It was, 
however, with sincere relief that a month later, on the ar- 
rival of the leading troops of Sir John French's Army in the 

1 An officer of the General Staff who had been attached, at my re- 
quest in 1 91 3, to the Admiralty War Staff in order to promote an ef- 
fective liaison between the two staffs. This very gifted officer rendered 
us invaluable service. He died prematurely after the hardships of the 
war, throughout the whole of which he served with distinction in 
situations of responsibility and danger. 


neighbourhood, I transferred these detachments to the Com- 
mander-in-Chief, and divested myself of anxieties which 
though subsidiary were burdensome. 

Looking back with after-knowledge and increasing years, 
I seem to have been too ready to undertake tasks which were 
hazardous or even forlorn. Taking over responsibility for 
the air defence of Great Britain when resources were prac- 
tically non-existent and formidable air attacks imminent 
was from a personal point of view "some love but little 
policy." The same is true of the Dunkirk guerrilla. Still 
more is it true of the attempt to prolong the defence of Ant- 
werp which will be related in the next chapter. I could with 
perfect propriety, indeed with unanswerable reasons, have in 
every one of these cases left the burden to others. I believed, 
however, that the special knowledge which I possessed, and 
the great and flexible authority which I wielded in this time 
of improvisation, would enable me to offer less unsatisfactory 
solutions of these problems than could be furnished in the 
emergency by others in less commanding positions. I could at 
that time give directions over a very large and intricate field 
of urgent and swiftly changing business which were acted 
upon immediately by a great variety of authorities who other- 
wise would have had no common connecting centre. So I 
acted for the best, with confidence in the loyalty of my col- 
leagues, in the goodwill of the public, and, above all, in my 
own judgment which I seemed to see confirmed from day to 
day by many remarkable events. 

This chapter, which began with good luck and success, 
must end, however, with misfortune. The original War 
Orders had been devised to meet the situation on the out- 
break of hostilities. They placed the pieces on the board 
in what we believed to be the best array, and left their future 
disposition to be modified by experience. Under these orders 
the 7th Cruiser Squadron in the Third Fleet, consisting of the 


old cruisers of the Bacchante class {Bacchante, Euryalus (flag- 
ship), Cressy, Aboukir, Rogue), was based on the Nore 'in 
order to ensure the presence of armoured ships in the southern 
approaches of the North Sea and eastern entrance to the 
Channel, and to support the 1st and 3rd Flotillas operating in 
that area from Harwich.' The object of these flotillas was 
'to keep the area south of the 54th parallel clear of enemy 
torpedo craft and minelayers.' The Cruiser Force was 'to 
support them in the execution of these duties and also, with 
the flotillas, to keep a close watch over enemy war vessels and 
transports in order that their movement may be reported 
at the earliest moment.' 

This very necessary patrol had accordingly been maintained 
day after day without incident of any kind happening, and we 
had now been six weeks at war. In war all repetitions are peril- 
ous. You can do many things with impunity if you do not 
keep on doing them over and over again. 

It was no part of my duty to deal with the routine move- 
ments of the Fleet and its squadrons, but only to exercise a 
general supervision. I kept my eyes and ears open for every 
indication that would be useful, and I had many and various 
sources of information. On September 17, during my visit 
to the Grand Fleet, I heard an expression used by an officer 
which instantly arrested my attention. He spoke of 'the 
live-bait squadron.' I demanded what was meant, and was 
told that the expression referred to these old cruisers patrol- 
ling the narrow waters in apparently unbroken peace. I there- 
upon reviewed the whole position in this area. I discussed it 
with Commodore Tyrwhitt and with Commodore Keyes. 
The next morning I addressed the following minute to the 
First Sea Lord: — 

Secretary. September 18, 1914. 

First Sea Lord. 

The force available for operations in the narrow seas should 
be capable of minor action without the need of bringing down 


the Grand Fleet. To this end it should have effective support 
either by two or three battle cruisers or battleships of the 
Second Fleet working from Sheerness. This is the most 
efficiently air and destroyer patrolled anchorage we possess. 
They can lie behind the boom, and can always be at sea when 
we intend a raid. Battle cruisers are much to be pre- 

The Bacchantes ought not to continue on this beat. The 
risk to such ships is not justified by any services they can ren- 
der. The narrow seas, being the nearest point to the enemy, 
should be kept by a small number of good modern ships. 

The Bacchantes should go to the western entrance of the 
Channel and set BethelPs battleships — and later Wemyss' 
cruisers — free for convoy and other duties. 

The first four Arethusas should join the flotillas of the nar- 
row seas. 

I see no sufficient reason to exchange these flotillas now that 
they know their work with the northern ones. 

As the "M" boats are delivered they should be formed into 
a separate half-flotilla and go north to work with the Grand 

The King Alfred should pay off and be thoroughly repaired. 

Prince Louis immediately agreed and gave directions to the 
Chief of the Staff to make the necessary redistribution of 
forces. With this I was content, and I dismissed the matter 
from my mind, being sure that the orders given would be 
complied with at the earliest moment. Before they could 
take effect, disaster occurred. 

Pending the introduction of the new system, the Admiralty 
War Staff carried on with the old. The equinoctial weather 
was, however, so bad that the destroyer flotillas were ordered 
back to harbour by the Admiral commanding the Bacchante 
squadron. That officer, however, proposed to continue his 
patrol in the Dogger area with the cruisers alone. The Ad- 
miralty War Staff acquiesced in the principle of these arrange- 
ments but on the 19th instructed him to watch instead the 
Broad Fourteens: — 


'The Dogger Bank patrol need not be continued. Weather 
too bad for destroyers to go to sea. Arrange for cruisers to 
watch Broad Four teens.' 

This routine message did not of course come before me. 
It was not sent, however, by the War Staff without proper 
consideration. In the short steep seas which are the features 
of gales in these narrow waters, a submarine would be at a 
serious disadvantage and could only observe with extreme 
difficulty and imperfection. The rough weather which drove 
in our destroyers was believed to be an important protection 
against enemy submarines. 

Both Admiral and Admiralty, therefore, were in agreement 
to leave the cruisers at sea without their flotilla. If the 
weather moderated, it was intended that one of Commodore 
Tyrwhitt's flotillas should join them there on the morning 
of the 20th. The sea, however, continued so high on the 20th 
that the flotilla, led by the Fearless, had to turn back to Har- 
wich. Thus all through the 19th, 20th and 21st the three 
cruisers, the Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue, were left to main- 
tain the watch in the narrow waters without a flotilla screen. 
The Admiral in the Euryalus had to return to harbour on the 
20th to coal his ship. He left the squadron in command of 
the senior captain after enjoining special precautions. There 
was no more reason to expect that they would be attacked at 
this time than at any other. On the contrary, rumours of 
German activity to the northward had brought the whole 
Grand Fleet out in a southerly sweep down to the line be- 
tween Flamborough Head and the Horn Reef. Nor was there 
any connection between the orders to these cruisers and the 
movement of the Marine Brigade from Dover to Dunkirk 
which took place on the 20th. The cruisers were simply ful- 
filling their ordinary task, which from frequent repetition had 
already become dangerous and for which they were not in 
any case well suited. 


As soon as the weather began to abate on the 21st, Com- 
modore Tyrwhitt started off again for the Broad Fourteens 
with eight destroyers, and was already well on his way when 
the morning of the 22nd broke. As the sea subsided, the 
danger from submarines revived. The three cruisers, how- 
ever, instead of going to meet their destroyers, steamed slowly 
northward without zigzagging and at under ten knots, as no 
doubt they had often done before. Meanwhile a single Ger- 
man submarine, becoming more venturesome every day, was 
prowling southward down the Dutch coast. At 6.30 a.m., 
shortly after daylight, the Aboukir was struck by a torpedo. 
In twenty-five minutes this old vessel capsized. Some of her 
boats were smashed by the explosion, and hundreds of men 
were swimming in the water or clinging to wreckage. Both 
her consorts had hurried with chivalrous simplicity to the 
aid of the sinking ship. Both came to a dead standstill within 
a few hundred yards of her and lowered all their boats to 
rescue the survivors. In this posture they in their turn were 
both sunk, first the Hogue and then the Cressy, by the same 
submarine. Out of over 2,000 men on board these three ships, 
only 800 were saved, and more than 1,400 perished. The 
ships themselves were of no great value : they were among the 
oldest cruisers of the Third Fleet and contributed in no ap- 
preciable way to our vital margins. But like all Third Fleet 
ships, they were almost entirely manned with reservists, most 
of whom were married men; and they carried also young 
cadets from Osborne posted for safety to ships which it was 
thought would not be engaged in the great battles. This 
cruel loss of life, although small compared to what the Army 
was enduring, constituted the first serious forfeit exacted 
from the Navy in the war. It greatly stimulated and encour- 
aged the enterprise of the German submarines. The com- 
mander of the fatal boat (Lieutenant Weddigen) was exult- 
ingly proclaimed as a national hero. Certainly the destruction 
with his own fingers of fourteen hundred persons was an epi- 


sode of a peculiar character in human history. But, as it 
happened, he did not live long to enjoy his sombre fame. A 
storm of criticism was directed at the Admiralty, and natu- 
rally it was focussed on me. 'Here was an instance of the 
disaster which followed from the interference of a civilian 
Minister in naval operations and the over-riding of the judg- 
ment of skilful and experienced Admirals.' The writer 1 of a 
small but venomous brochure which was industriously circu- 
lated in influential circles in London did not hesitate to make 
this charge in the most direct form, 2 and it was repeated in 
countless innuendoes throughout the British Press. I did not, 
however, think it possible to make any explanation or reply. 
I caused the most searching inquiries to be made in the 
Admiralty into the responsibility for this tragic event. The 
necessary Court of Inquiry was convened. The Court found 
that the responsibility for the position of the cruisers on that 
day was attributable to the Admiralty War Staff telegram of 
the 19th which has been already quoted. The First Sea Lord 
held that this was a reflection upon the Admiralty by a sub- 
ordinate Court; but it seemed to me that the criticism was 
just and that it should stand. It was, however, by no means 
exhaustive. One would expect senior officers in command of 
cruiser squadrons to judge for themselves the danger of their 
task, and especially of its constant repetition; and while obey- 
ing any orders they received, to represent an unsatisfactory 
situation plainly to the Admiralty instead of going on day after 
day, and week after week, until superior authority intervened 
or something lamentable happened. One would expect also 
that ordinary precautions would be observed in the tactical 

1 Mr. Thomas Gibson Bowles. 

2 'The loss on September 22/ wrote Mr. Gibson Bowles, 'of the 
Aboukir, the Cressy and the Hogue, with 1,459 officers and men killed, 
occurred because, despite the warnings of admirals, commodores and 
captains, Mr. Churchill refused, until it was too late, to recall them 
from a patrol so carried on as to make them certain to fall victims to 
the torpedoes of an active enemy.' 


conduct of squadrons. Moreover, although the impulse which 
prompted the Hogue and Cressy to go to the rescue of their 
comrades in the sinking Aboukir was one of generous human- 
ity, they could hardly have done anything more unwise or 
more likely to add to the loss of life. They should at once 
have steamed away in opposite directions, lowering boats at 
the first opportunity. 

I remitted all these matters to Lord Fisher when two 
months later he arrived at the Admiralty; but he laconically 
replied that 'most of the officers concerned were on half pay, 
that they had better remain there, and that no useful pur- 
pose would be served by further action/ 



1 If Hopes were dupes, Fears may be liars, 
It may be in yon smoke conceal'd, 
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers, 
And but for you, possess the field. 

For while the tired waves vainly breaking 

Seem here no painful inch to gain, 
Far back, through creeks and inlets making, 

Comes silent flooding in the main.' 


The Battle of the Marne — The Race for the Sea — Antwerp, the True 
Flank — Admiralty Concern about Antwerp — The Neutrality of 
the Scheldt — Opening of the Siege of Antwerp, September 28 — 
Lord Kitchener's Plans — Belgian Decision to Evacuate Antwerp 
— Conference at Lord Kitchener's House, Midnight, October 2 — 
British Ministers urge further Resistance — My Mission to Ant- 
werp — French Aid Promised — The Situation in Antwerp, October 
3 — My Proposals to the Belgian and British Governments — 
Progress of the German Attack — Strange Contrasts — Acceptance 
of my Proposals by British and Belgian Governments — Chances 
of Success — Relief Approaching — Fighting of October 5 — The 
Belgian Night Attack Fails — The Front broken in, October 6 — 
Arrival of the British Naval Brigades — Arrival of Sir Henry 
Rawlinson — Decisions of British and Belgian Council of War, 
Night of October 6 — The Personal Aspect — Five Days Gained. 

TT is not possible to understand the British attempt to pro- 
•*■ long the defence of Antwerp without seeing the episode 
in its true setting. The following is a simple way of review- 
ing the military operations in the West up to the point which 
this account has now reached. 

The German armies swept through Belgium intending to 
turn and drive back the French left and left centre. At the 



same time after a diversion in Alsace the French centre struck 
forward on either side of Metz at the German left and left 
centre. The French hoped that this counter-stroke would 
rupture the German line and paralyse the turning movement 
through Belgium. However, after the whole fronts had been 
in collision for several days of intense battle, it appeared that 
the French counter-stroke had not ruptured the German line, 
and that the turning movement through Belgium had suc- 
ceeded in driving back the French left. Thus by the twenti- 
eth day the French right was thrown on to the defensive and 
their three armies of the left and left centre and the British 
army were in full retreat southward towards Paris. The Ger- 
mans therefore were completely successful in the first main 

But henceforward the French right stood like a rock in 
front of Nancy under General de Castelnau, and at the 
Trouee des Charmes under General Dubail, and the Germans 
sustained a series of bloody checks. Meanwhile the French 
left and centre by retreating for five marches extended the 
pursuing Germans to the utmost while falling back themselves 
on their own reserves and supplies. And by September 6 (the 
37th day) the French armies turned and assumed the offensive 
on the whole front of 120 miles from Paris to Verdun. In 
addition a new French army under General Maunoury had 
come into existence to the north of Paris which attacked the 
German right, and all the time the resistance of the Nancy 
army (de Castelnau) and of the army of General Dubail on 
its right continued unbreakable. Thus from September 6 the 
whole of the French and German armies and the British Ex- 
peditionary Force were locked in general battle on a front of 
over 180 miles, with practically every division and all their 
reserves on both sides thrown in. 

This battle, which lasted for four days, was the greatest of 
the war. The Germans aimed not at the capture of Paris or 
Verdun or Nancy, but at the final destruction of the French 


military power. Had they succeeded in breaking the French 
front between Paris and Verdun or in falling upon its rear 
from the direction of Nancy, nearly half the French Army, 
certainly more than a million men, would have been cut off in 
the Verdun angle. The rest, whatever happened in the neigh- 
bourhood of Paris, would have had to retreat to the south- 
ward and would never again have been numerous enough to 
form a complete front. Compared with stakes like these, the 
entry into Paris by the German right flank or the capture of 
the Channel Ports by a couple of German corps were insignifi- 
cant and rightly discarded by the German Headquarters. 
Once the French Army was cut in half and finally beaten, 
everything would fall into their hands. They therefore di- 
rected all their available troops to the battlefield, ignored the 
Channel Ports, and compelled von Kluck, commanding their 
right army, to skirt Paris and close in to their main battle 
front. How near they were to success will long be debated 
and never decided. But certainly they were within an ace. 
No military reproach lies upon their disregard of other objec- 
tives: but only upon any failure to disregard them. It is not 
to their neglect to enter Paris or seize Calais that their fatal 
defeat was due, but rather to the withdrawal of two German 
army corps to repel the Russian invasion of East Prussia. 

The soul of the French nation triumphed in this death 
struggle, and their armies, defeated on the frontier, turned 
after the long marches of retreat, and attacked and fought 
with glorious and desperate tenacity. British attention has 
naturally been concentrated upon the intense military situa- 
tion developed before and around Paris, in which our own 
army played a decisive part; and the various pressures which 
operated upon von Kluck have now been minutely exposed. 
Attacked on his right flank and rear by Maunoury's army 
while advancing to the main battlefield, he was compelled to 
counter-march first two of his corps and then his two remain- 
ing corps in order to make head against the new danger. Thus 


a gap of 30 miles was opened in the German line between von 
Kluck and von Bulow. Into this gap marched the battered 
but reanimated British army. The tide had turned. But 
the whole of this great situation about Paris was itself only 
complementary to the battle as a whole. The gaze of the 
military student must range along the whole line of the French 
armies, the defeat of any one of which would have been fatal. 
Most of all his eye will rest upon the very centre of the Paris- 
Verdun line, where Foch though driven back maintained his 
resistance. 'My centre cedes. My right recoils. Situation 
excellent. I attack/ But all the four French armies between 
Paris and Verdun fought with desperate valour, while Dubail 
and de Castelnau round the corner maintained their superb 
defence. And thus, weakened by its rapid advance, the 
whole German line came to a standstill. And as this condi- 
tion was reached, the penetration by the British and by the 
Fifth French army on the British right, of the gap in the Ger- 
man line between von Bulow and von Kluck determined both 
these commanders in succession to retreat, and thus imposed 
a retrograde movement upon the whole of the invading hosts. 
'The most formidable avalanche of fire and steel ever let 
loose upon a nation' had spent its force. 

From the moment when the German hopes of destroying 
the French armies by a general battle and thus of ending the 
war at a single stroke had definitely failed, all the secondary 
and incidental objectives which hitherto they had rightly 
discarded became of immense consequence. As passion de- 
clined, material things resumed their values. The struggle 
of armies and nations having failed to reach a decision, places 
recovered their significance, and geography rather than psy- 
chology began to rule the lines of war. Paris now unattain- 
able, the Channel Ports — Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne — 
still naked, and lastly Antwerp, all reappeared in the field of 
values like submerged rocks when the tidal wave recedes. 

The second phase of the war now opened. The French, 


having heaved the Germans back from the Marne to the 
Aisne, and finding themselves unable to drive them further 
by frontal attacks, continually reached out their left hand 
in the hopes of outflanking their opponents. The race for 
the sea began. The French began to pass their troops from 
right to left. Castelnau's army, marching behind the front 
from Nancy, crashed into battle in Picardy, striving to turn 
the German right, and was itself outreached on its left. 
Foch's army, corps after corps, hurried by road and rail to 
prolong the fighting front in Artois; but round the left of this 
again lapped the numerous German cavalry divisions of von 
der Marwitz — swoop and counter-swoop. On both sides every 
man and every gun were hurled as they arrived into the con- 
flict, and the unceasing cannonade drew ever northwards 
and westwards — ever towards the sea. 

Where would the grappling armies strike blue water? At 
what point on the coast ? Which would turn the other's flank ? 
Would it be north or south of Dunkirk ? Or of Gravelines or 
Calais or Boulogne? Nay, southward still, was Abbeville 
even attainable? All was committed to the shock of an 
ever-moving battle. But as the highest goal, the one safe in- 
expugnable flank for the Allies, the most advanced, the most 
daring, the most precious — worth all the rest, guarding all 
the rest — gleamed Antwerp — could Antwerp but hold out. 

Antwerp was not only the sole stronghold of the Belgian 
nation: it was also the true left flank of the Allied front in 
the west. It guarded the whole line of the Channel Ports. 
It threatened the flanks and rear of the German armies in 
France. It was the gateway from which a British army 
might emerge at any moment upon their sensitive and even 
vital communications. No German advance to the sea-coast, 
upon Ostend, upon Dunkirk, upon Calais and Boulogne, 
seemed possible while Antwerp was unconquered. 

My own feeling at the outbreak of the war had been that 
if the right things were done, Antwerp ought to hold out for 


two or even three months, that is to say, until we knew the 
result of the main collision of the armies on all the fronts — 
French, Russian, Austrian. I rested my thought on Metz 
and Paris in 1870-71, Plevna in 1878, Port Arthur in 1904. 
The fall of Namur unsettled these foundations. Still Antwerp, 
even apart from its permanent fortifications, was a place of 
great strength, fortified by rivers and inundations, and de- 
fended by all that was best in the Belgian nation and by prac- 
tically its whole Field Army. 

I was from the beginning very anxious to do everything 
that could be done out of our slender resources to aid the 
Belgian King and nation to maintain their stronghold, and 
such small items as the Admiralty could spare in guns and 
ammunition were freely sent. The reports which we received 
from Antwerp and the telegrams of the Belgian Government 
already at the beginning of September began to cause me 
deep concern. So also did the question of the Scheldt, whose 
free navigation both for troops and munitions seemed vital 
to the Belgian people. 

I thought that Antwerp should be made to play its part 
in the first phase of the war by keeping as many German 
troops as possible out of the great battle. If the Belgian Army 
defending the city could be strengthened by British troops, 
not only would the defence be invigorated, but the Germans 
would be continually apprehensive of a British inroad upon 
them from this direction, the deadliness of which Lord 
Roberts's strategic instinct had so clearly appreciated. It 
was true that we had no troops in England fit to manoeuvre 
in the field against the enemy. But the defence of the forti- 
fied lines of Antwerp was a task in which British Territorial 
troops might well have played their part. Accordingly on 
September 7 I sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister, 
Sir Edward Grey and Lord Kitchener emphasising the im- 
portance of Antwerp, particularly from the naval stand- 
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'The Admiralty view the sustained and effective defence of 
Antwerp as a matter of high consequence. It preserves the 
life of the Belgian nation: it safeguards a strategic point 
which, if captured, would be of the utmost menace.' 

In order to save Antwerp, two things were necessary: first, 
effective defence of the fortress line; and second, free unin- 
terrupted communication with the sea. The first was toler- 
ably well provided for by the Belgian Army which could 
easily be reinforced by British Territorial troops. But the 
second essential, the free communication with the sea, was a 
larger matter, and in it were involved our relations with the 
Dutch. I proposed that we should request the Dutch Gov- 
ernment to give a free passage up the Scheldt to Antwerp for 
whatever troops and supplies were needed. I pointed out 
further that it was impossible to try to supply an army at 
Antwerp by Ostend and Ghent; that the appeals which the 
Belgians were then making to us to send 25,000 troops to co- 
operate with an equal number of Belgian troops for the pur- 
pose of keeping open the line Antwerp-St. Nicholas-Ghent- 
Bruges-Ostend was a counsel of despair. 

'It involves practically a flank position for a line of supply 
protected by forces large enough to be hit hard and perfectly 
powerless against any determined German attack which it is 
thought worth while to deliver. At any moment a punch up 
from Brussels by a German division or larger force would rup- 
ture the line, and drive the troops trying to hold it to be dis- 
armed on neutral Dutch territory or into the sea.' 

I dwelt on the disadvantages to the Allies of a neutrality 
which kept the Rhine open for Germany and closed the 
Scheldt to Antwerp. 

As these questions are still of some delicacy I have thought 
it better to summarise rather than reprint my memorandum. 
But I draw the reader's attention to the date — September 7. 

I still think that strong representations to the Dutch Gov- 


eminent might well have induced them to grant this relief 
to Antwerp and the Belgian nation in their agony. The orig- 
inal guarantee of Belgian neutrality was given to the Gov- 
ernment of the Netherlands, and it would have been a natural 
and legitimate demand that they should put no needless ob- 
stacle in the way of its fulfilment. The sympathies of Hol- 
land for the sufferings of Belgium were naturally restrained 
by the fear of sharing her fate. But a neutral Holland was 
of far more use to Germany than a hostile, a conquered, or 
even an allied Holland. Once Holland was attacked by or al- 
lied to Germany we could close the Rhine, and if we were 
in alliance with Holland, the Texel and other Dutch islands of 
enormous strategic importance would become available for 
the forward action of the British Navy. We should in fact 
have that oversea base without which a British naval offensive 
was impossible. I do not therefore believe that if Holland 
had agreed to open the Scheldt for the succour of Antwerp, 
Germany would have declared war upon her. There would 
have been a long argument about interpretations of neu- 
trality in which the Germans, after their behaviour, would 
have started at a great disadvantage. I still think that if 
Holland could have said to Germany l the English are threat- 
ening us with a blockade of the Rhine if we do not open the 
Scheldt/ Germany would have accepted the lesser of two 

The Foreign Secretary did not, however, feel able to put this 
grave issue to the Dutch Government. Neither did Lord 
Kitchener wish to use the British Territorial Divisions in the 
manner proposed, and while adhering to my own opinion I 
certainly do not blame him. He would not send any Terri- 
torials into Antwerp, nor was anything effective done by the 
Allies for the city during the whole of September. From the 
moment when German Main Headquarters had extricated 
and reformed their armies after the failure at the Marne, the 
capture of Antwerp became most urgently necessary to them. 


Accordingly on the afternoon of September 9, as is now known, 
the German Emperor was moved to order the capture of that 
city. Nothing was apparent to the Allies until the 28th. The 
Belgian and German troops remained in contact along the 
fortress line without any serious siege or assaulting operations 
developing. But on the 28th the Germans suddenly opened 
fire upon the forts of the Antwerp exterior lines with 17-inch 
howitzers hurling projectiles of over a ton. 

Almost immediately the Belgian Government gave signs of 
justified alarm. British intelligence reports indicated that 
the Germans were seriously undertaking the siege of Antwerp, 
that their operations were not intended as a demonstration to 
keep the Belgian troops occupied or to protect the lines of 
communication. Information had come from Brussels that 
the Emperor had ordered the capture of the town, that this 
might cost thousands of lives, but that the order must be 
obeyed. Large bodies of German reserve troops were also 
reported assembling near Liege. In view of all these reports 
it was evident that the role of our small British force of marines, 
omnibuses, armoured cars, aeroplanes, etc., operating from 
Dunkirk was exhausted. They had no longer to deal with 
Uhlan patrols or raiding parties of the enemy. Large hostile 
forces were approaching the coastal area, and the imposture 
whereby we had remained in occupation of Lille and Tournai 
could be sustained no longer. 

Lord Kitchener was disquieted by the opening of the bom- 
bardment upon the Antwerp forts. He immediately sent (on 
September 29) a staff officer, Colonel Dallas, into the city to 
report direct to him on the situation. On the evening of 
October 1 this officer reported that: — 

'The Belgian War Minister considered the situation very 
grave. Did not think that resistance to the German attack 
could be maintained by defensive measures only within the 
fortress. That the only way to save Antwerp from falling 
was by a diversion from outside on the German left flank. 


That the French had offered a division and that he looked for- 
ward to co-operation by an English force also if that could be 

The minister had also said 

'That a Belgian cavalry division and some volunteers, and 
possibly two divisions of the Belgian Field Army would be 
able to assist in the operation which would be most effective 
in the neighbourhood of Ghent.' 

The Commander of the Antwerp fortress also considered the 
situation grave, and while Colonel Dallas was with him a mes- 
sage arrived to say that Fort Ste. Catherine had fallen, that 
the German troops had pressed forward between it and the 
adjoining work, and had occupied the Belgian infantry trenches 
at this point. 

Colonel Dallas further reported that according to the Bel- 
gian headquarters the German Army in Belgium comprised — 
'Siege army, consisting of the 3rd Reserve Army Corps, 1 di- 
vision of marines, 1 Ersatz reserve division, 1 brigade of Land- 
sturm, 2 regiments of pioneers, 1 regiment of siege artillery.' 
And that 'The troops of the Military Government of Brussels 
consist of a weak Landwehr brigade and some Bavarian Land- 
sturm, number unknown.' 

The Belgian Field Army was about 80,000 strong, in addi- 
tion to which there were some 70,000 fortress troops. Four 
divisions of the Belgian Army were defending the southern 
portion of the outer perimeter of the Antwerp defences, with 
the 5th Division in reserve, and one weak division was at 
Termonde. A cavalry division of about 3,600 sabres was 
south-west of Termonde guarding communications between 
Antwerp and the coast. Ghent was held by some volunteers. 

On the night of October 1, Sir F. Villiers reported that 

'On southern section of the outer line of forts German 
attacks continued to-day, and in the afternoon the enemy's 


troops disabled fort Wavre, Ste. Catherine and adjoining 
works, and occupied Belgian trenches at this point.' 

The Belgian troops were, however, still holding out on the 
Belgian side of the River Nethe. 

Lord Kitchener now showed himself strongly disposed to 
sustain the defence or effect the relief of Antwerp, and to use 
the regular forces he still had in England for this purpose, 
provided the French would co-operate effectively. Early in 
the afternoon of October 2 he moved Sir Edward Grey to send 
the following telegram to the British Ambassador at Bor- 
deaux: — 

'The French Government should be informed that mili- 
tary advisers here consider that in view of the superior forces 
Germany has in the field there, the dispatch of a French Terri- 
torial division with the additions proposed in ten days' time, 
together with the force we are prepared to send, would not be 
able effectively to force the Germans to raise the siege of Ant- 

'Unless something more can be done they do not advise the 
dispatch of the force. We are sending some heavy artillery 
with personnel to assist Belgians. 

'Situation at Antwerp is very grave, and French Govern- 
ment will fully realise the serious effect on the campaign that 
would be entailed by its loss. 

' Unless the main situation in France can be decided favour- 
ably in a short time, which would enable us to relieve Antwerp 
by detaching a proper force, it is most desirable that General 
Joffre should make an effort and send regular troops to region 
of Dunkirk, from which post they could operate in conjunction 
with our reinforcements to relieve Antwerp. 

'We can send some first-line troops, but not sufficient by 
themselves to raise the siege of Antwerp, and we cannot send 
them to co-operate with any but French regulars. 

'If General Joffre can bring about a decisively favourable 
action in France in two or three days the relief of Antwerp 
may be made the outcome of that, but if not, unless he now 
sends some regular troops the loss of Antwerp must be con- 


All he was able to send to Antwerp was the following: — 

'Be very careful not to raise hopes of British and French 
forces arriving quickly to relieve Antwerp. The matter has 
not been decided, as the Territorial division offered by France 
in ten days' time would, in my opinion, be quite incapable of 
doing anything towards changing the situation at Antwerp. 
I have represented this. Unless a change is made, I consider 
it would be useless to put in our little force against the very 
superior German forces in the field round Antwerp.' 

He then entered in some detail upon the few guns he was 
sending, giving particular directions about the use of the two 

Up to this point I had not been brought into the affair in 
any way. I read, of course, all the telegrams almost as soon 
as they were received or dispatched by Lord Kitchener, and 
followed the situation constantly. I warmly approved the ef- 
forts which Lord Kitchener was making to provide or obtain 
succour for Antwerp, and I shared to the full his anxieties. I 
saw him every day. But I had no personal responsibility, 
nor was I directly concerned. My impression at this time was 
that the situation at Antwerp was serious but not immediately 
critical; that the place would certainly hold out for a fortnight 
more; and that meanwhile Lord Kitchener's exertions or the 
influence of the main battle in France would bring relief. So 
much was this the case that I proposed to be absent from the 
Admiralty for about eighteen hours on the 2nd~3rd October. 

I had planned to visit Dunkirk on October 3 on business 
connected with the Marine Brigade and other details sent 
there at General Joffre's request. At 1 1 o'clock on the night 
of the 2nd I was some twenty miles out of London on my way 
to Dover when the special train in which I was travelling sud- 
denly stopped, and without explanation returned to Victoria 
Station. I was told on arrival I was to go immediately to 
Lord Kitchener's house in Carlton Gardens. Here I found 
shortly before midnight besides Lord Kitchener, Sir Edward 


Grey, the First Sea Lord, and Sir William Tyrrell of the For- 
eign Office. They showed me the following telegram from our 
Minister, Sir Frederick Villiers, sent from Antwerp at 8.20 
p.m. and received in London at 10 p.m. on October 2 : — 

The Government have decided to leave to-morrow for Os- 
tend, acting on advice unanimously given by Superior Council 
of War in presence of the King. The King with field army 
will withdraw, commencing with advanced guard to-morrow 
in the direction of Ghent to protect coast-line, and eventually 
it is hoped to co-operate with the Allied armies. The Queen 
will also leave. 

It is said that town will hold out for five or six days, but it 
seems most unlikely that when the Court and Government are 
gone resistance will be so much prolonged. 

Decision taken very suddenly this afternoon is result of 
increasingly critical situation. I have seen both Prime Minis- 
ter and Minister for Foreign Affairs, who maintain that no 
other course was possible, in view of danger that the King's 
Government and field army will be caught here. 

I saw that my colleagues had received this news, which 
they had already been discussing for half an hour, with con- 
sternation. The rapidity with which the situation had de- 
generated was utterly unexpected. That the great fortress 
and city of Antwerp with its triple line of forts and inunda- 
tions, defended by the whole Belgian Field Army (a force cer- 
tainly equal in numbers to all the German troops in that 
neighbourhood), should collapse in perhaps forty-eight hours 
seemed to all of us not only terrible but incomprehensible. 
That this should happen while preparations were in progress 
both in France and England for the relief or succour of the 
city, while considerable forces of fresh and good troops un- 
doubtedly stood available on both sides of the Channel, and 
before General Joffre had even been able to reply to Lord 
Kitchener's telegram, was too hard to bear. We looked at 
each other in bewilderment and distress. What could have 


happened in the last few hours to make the Belgians despair? 
Our last telegram from Colonel Dallas, received that after- 
noon, had said: ' Situation unchanged during night and Ger- 
mans have not made further progress. Great slaughter of 
Germans reported and corresponding encouragement to Bel- 
gians, who are about to undertake counter-attack in neigh- 
bourhood of Fort Ste. Catherine. , And now a message at 
10 p.m. announced immediate evacuation and impending 

Those who in years to come look back upon the first con- 
vulsions of this frightful epoch will find it easy with after 
knowledge and garnered experience to pass sagacious judg- 
ments on all that was done or left undone. There is always 
a strong case for doing nothing, especially for doing nothing 
yourself. But to the small group of Ministers who met that 
midnight in Lord Kitchener's house, the duty of making sure 
that Antwerp was not cast away without good cause while 
the means of saving it might well be at hand was clear. I 
urged strongly that we should not give in without a struggle: 
and we decided unitedly upon the following telegram to Sir 
F. Villiers:— 

October 3, 19 14, 12.45 a - m - 

The importance of Antwerp being held justifies a further 
effort till the course of the main battle in France is deter- 
mined. We are trying to send you help from the main 
army, and, if this were possible, would add reinforcements 
from here. Meanwhile a brigade of Marines will reach you 
to-morrow to sustain the defence. We urge you to make one 
further struggle to hold out. Even a few days may make 
the difference. We hope Government will find it possible to 
remain and field army to continue operations. 

On the other hand, the danger of urging the Belgian Gov- 
ernment to hold out against their considered judgment with- 
out a full knowledge of the local situation was present in every 
mind, and even if the forces for the relieving army were to 


come into view, there was much to be arranged and decided 
before precise dates and definite assurances could be given. 
We were confronted with the hard choice of having either 
to take decisions of far-reaching importance in the utmost 
haste and with imperfect information, or on the other hand 
tamely to let Antwerp fall. 

In these circumstances, it was a natural decision that some 
one in authority who knew the general situation should travel 
swiftly into the city and there ascertain what could be done 
on either side. As I was already due at Dunkirk the next 
morning, the task was confided to me: Lord Kitchener ex- 
pressed a decided wish that I should go; the First Sea Lord 
consented to accept sole responsibility in my absence. It 
was then about half-past one in the morning. I went at once 
to Victoria Station, got into my train which was waiting, and 
started again for Dover. A few minutes before I left, Lord 
Kitchener received the answer to his telegram of the 2nd from 
the British Ambassador in Bordeaux. Sir Francis Bertie said 
that before he could carry out the instructions sent him about 
Antwerp, he had received a letter from the French Foreign 
Minister stating that with the shortest delay possible two 
Territorial Divisions, complete with artillery and cavalry, 
would be sent to Ostend for the relief of the fortress. 
This was to be without prejudice to what the French Govern- 
ment expected to do very soon in respect of 'a contemplated 
combined movement, French, British and Belgian, on the ex- 
treme left of General Joffre's armies which indirectly would 
have the effect of causing German troops in the neighbourhood 
of Antwerp to retreat, and so effect its relief. ' The French 
Government, he said, could not go back on their decision to 
employ Territorials. The French Foreign Minister declared 
that the Territorials were good troops, better in some respects 
than some of the Regulars, and that they were sending two 
divisions complete, with artillery and cavalry, instead of one. 
Sir Francis Bertie added that the French Government had re- 


ceived reports from its Attache in Antwerp stating that 
' though the military situation there was not good, it could 
not be regarded as really 'bad. The Germans had suffered 
severe losses in the attacks which they had made on some of 
the outer works. Those attacks had not been simultaneous, 
which fact indicated that the Germans were not in great force, 
had only a limited siege train and not more than two army 
corps before Antwerp.' 

Meanwhile a telegram was also sent (1.15 a.m. October 3) 
by Sir Edward Grey to the Belgian Government saying that 
I would arrive on the morning of the 3rd. 

'It is hoped that the First Lord of the Admiralty, who is 
fully acquainted with our views, may have the honour of an 
audience with the King before a final decision as to the de- 
parture of the Government is taken.' 

On this the Belgian Council of War, sitting at dawn on 
the 3rd, suspended the order for the evacuation of the city. 

'I communicated at once with Minister of War/ tele- 
graphed Sir F. Villiers, October 3, 6.37 a.m. 'He summoned 
a meeting of Ministers, who, after deliberation, informed me 
that, awaiting arrival of First Lord they had decided to post- 
pone departure. Audience with King for Mr. Churchill will 
be arranged for at as early an hour as possible.' 

Lord Kitchener now threw nimself into the task of con- 
centrating and organising a relieving Army. He telegraphed 
at 9.40 a.m. on October 3 asking the French War Minister 
to make all preparations to send the proposed two divisions 
with cavalry and artillery complete as soon as possible and 
to let him know how soon they could be dispatched. He 
was asked in reply whether he would prefer one Territorial 
Division with a complete brigade of Fusiliers Marins. He 
replied that he preferred the two divisions, and that the ques- 


tion of time was of the greatest importance and urgency. 
He was told, however, that it had been decided to send the 
Fusiliers. Marins after all. He replied that whichever was 
most convenient to the French should be sent, so long as it 
was sent with the least delay possible. He telegraphed to 
his Staff Officer in Antwerp, Colonel Dallas, at 2.15 p.m. 
October 3 : — 

'What force in your opinion would suffice ? Give full de- 
tails of what troops are most required to deal with the situation 
in co-operation with the Belgian Field Army. 

1 The French Government say they will send two divisions 
with full complement of cavalry and artillery, but I do not 
yet know when they will be available. If a corps of our troops, 
under Sir John French, together with the 7th Division, and 
cavalry division from here, [were] concentrated at Lille in or- 
der to attack the right flank of the main German Army and 
drive it back, would this action, if accomplished in about four 
or five days, in your opinion, relieve the situation at Antwerp 
quickly enough to prevent the fall of the place, or must any 
troops employed to relieve Antwerp be sent there via Zee- 
brugge, and, if so, can you give me approximately the longest 
time we can have to get troops there, so that I can inform the 
French Government ?' 

At 7.35 on the same afternoon the composition of the French 
contingent was received from the British Ambassador: — 

'87th Territorial Division from Havre, under General Roy, 
consisting of 12 battalions of infantry, 2 groups of artillery 
(90-millimetre guns), 2 squadrons of reserve cavalry (Dra- 
goons), now being formed at Dunkirk, 1 engineer company, 
headquarters and staff and usual services attached to a di- 

'The Fusiliers Marins brigade, under command of Rear- 
Admiral Ronarc'h, will be composed of two regiments of 
Fusiliers Marins (6,000), 86 mitrailleuses manned by seamen 
(260), 1 regiment of Zouaves (2,000). Total of contingent 
about 23,000 men. 


'The Havre division will embark there on 5th October, and 
should be landed at Dunkirk 7 th October. 

' The Fusiliers Marins brigade will be sent to Dunkirk by 
land instead of by sea. It will arrive at Dunkirk at about 
same time as the Territorial division, namely, 7th October. ' 

I did not reach the city till after 3 p.m., and after consulting 
with Colonel Dallas I was visited by the Belgian Prime Min- 
ister. Monsieur de Broqueville was a man of exceptional 
vigour and clarity both of mind and speech. He had been 
called to the helm of the Belgian State at the moment of the 
decision not to submit to wrongful aggression. He explained 
to me the situation with precision. General de Guise, the 
commander of the fortress, added his comments. The outer 
forts were falling one by one. Five or six shells from the enor- 
mous German howitzers were sufficient to smash them to their 
foundations, to destroy their defenders even in the deepest 
casemates, and to wreck the platforms of the guns. Now the 
forts of the inner line were being similarly attacked, and there 
was no conceivable means of preventing their destruction one 
after another at the rate of about a fort a day. The army was 
tired and dispirited through having been left so long entirely 
upon its own resources without ever a sign of the Allies for 
whom they had risked so much. Material of every kind — 
guns, ammunition, searchlights, telephones, entrenching ma- 
terials — was scanty. The water supply of the city had been 
cut off. There were many rumours of German sympathisers 
in its large population. At any moment the front might be 
broken in under the heavy artillery attack which was then in 
progress. But this was only half the danger. The life and 
honour of the Belgian nation did not depend on Antwerp, but 
on its army. To lose Antwerp was disastrous; to lose the 
army as well was fatal. The Scheldt was barred by a severe 
interpretation of neutrality. The only line of retreat was by 
a dangerous flank march parallel to the Dutch frontier and the 


sea-coast. Two Belgian divisions and the cavalry division 
were staving off the Germans from this only remaining line of 
retreat. But the pressure was increasing and the line of the 
Dendre was no longer intact. If Ghent fell before the Belgian 
Army made good its retreat, nothing would be saved from the 

In these circumstances they had decided first to withdraw 
to what was called the entrenched camp on the left bank of 
the Scheldt, that is to say, towards their right; and, secondly, 
in the same direction through Ghent towards the left flank of 
the Allied armies. These orders had been suspended in con- 
sequence of the telegram from the British Government. 

I then exposed Lord Kitchener's plan and stated the num- 
bers of the French and British troops already available for 
the assistance of the Belgian Army. I emphasised the impor- 
tance of holding the city and delaying the Germans as long 
as possible without compromising the retreat of the army. I 
pointed out that the issue of the battle for the seaward flank 
still hung in the balance, and that the main armies were draw- 
ing nearer to Belgium every day. I asked whether the re- 
lieving forces mentioned, if actually sent, would influence their 
decision. They replied that this was a new situation; that 
had this help been forthcoming earlier, events might have 
taken a different course. Even now, if their line of retreat 
were safeguarded by the arrival of Allied troops in the neigh- 
bourhood of Ghent, they were prepared to continue the re- 
sistance. I thereupon drew up, with their approval and 
agreement, the following telegram to Lord Kitchener: — 

Antwerp, October 3, 1914, 6.53 p.m. {received 9.45 p.m.) 
1 Subject to confirmation on both sides, I have made follow- 
ing arrangement with M. de Broqueville, Prime Minister: — 
' Every preparation to be made by Belgian Government now 
for a resistance of at least ten days, and every step taken with 
utmost energy. Within three days we are to state definitely 
whether we can launch big field operation for their relief or 


not, and when it will probably take effect. If we cannot give 
them a satisfactory assurance of substantial assistance within 
three days, they are to be quite free to abandon defence if they 
think fit. In this case, should they wish to clear out with 
field army, we (although not able to launch the big operation) 
are to help their field army to get away by sending covering 
troops to Ghent or other points on line of retreat. Thus, any- 
thing they will have lost in time by going on defending Ant- 
werp with all their strength will be made up to them as far as 
possible by help on their way out. 

'Further, we will meanwhile help their local defence in all 
minor ways, such as guns, marines, naval brigades, etc. 

' 1 have put the terms high to avoid at all costs our under- 
taking anything we could not perform, and also to avoid 
hurry in our saying what troops we can spare for big opera- 
tions. You will be able, as your telegram No. 7 (to Colonel 
Dallas) indicates, to do much better than this, and to give 
decided promise within three days, but the vital thing is that 
Belgian Government and army should forthwith hurl them- 
selves with revived energy into the defence. 

'Attack is being harshly pressed at this moment, and half 
measures would be useless, but Prime Minister informs me 
that they are confident they can hold out for three days, 
pretty sure they can hold out for six, and will try ten. 

'This arrangement, if adopted, will give time necessary for 
problem to be solved calmly. 

'Two thousand marines are arriving this evening. 

'I am remaining here till to-morrow. 

'I have read this telegram to Belgian Prime Minister, who 
says that we are in full agreement, subject to ratification by 
Council of Ministers which is now being held. 

'If you clinch these propositions, pray give the following 
order to the Admiralty: Send at once both naval brigades, 
minus recruits, via Dunkirk, into Antwerp, with five days' 
rations and 2,000,000 rounds of ammunition, but without 
tents or much impedimenta. 

'When can they arrive?' 

I had been met on arrival by Admiral Oliver, the Director 
of the Naval Intelligence Division. This officer had been sent 
by the Admiralty on September 29 to see what could be done 


to disable the large quantity of merchant shipping which lay 
in the Scheldt, so that if the city fell it could not be used by 
the Germans for embarking troops to invade England. He 
was a great stand-by in this time of stress. Night and day 
he laboured on the ships. With the assistance only of a Bel- 
gian sapper officer, four privates and a Belgian boy scout, he 
inserted explosive charges between the cylinders of thirty-eight 
large vessels, and by this means ruptured the propelling 
machinery so that not one of them was fit to go down the 
Scheldt during the whole of the German occupation. 

While waiting for the reply from London that afternoon 
and also the next morning, I went out and examined the 
front: a leafy enclosed country, absolutely flat; a crescent of 
peering German kite balloons; a continuous bombardment; 
scarcely anything in the nature of an infantry attack ; wearied 
and disheartened defenders. It was extremely difficult to 
get a clear view and so understand what kind of fighting was 
actually going on. We were, however, at length able to reach 
the actual inundations beyond which the enemy was posted. 
Entrenching here was impossible for either side, owing to the 
water met with at a foot's depth. The Belgian pickets 
crouched behind bushes. There was at that moment no rifle 
fire, but many shells traversed the air overhead on their way 
to the Belgian lines. 

Although the artillery fire of the Germans at Antwerp was 
at no time comparable to the great bombardments afterwards 
witnessed on the Western Front, it was certainly severe. The 
Belgian trenches were broad and shallow, and gave hardly 
any protection to their worn-out and in many cases inexperi- 
enced troops. As we walked back from the edge of these inun- 
dations along a stone-paved high road, it was a formidable 
sight to see on either hand the heavy shells bursting in salvoes 
of threes and fours with dense black smoke near or actually 
inside these scanty shelters in which the supporting troops were 
kneeling in fairly close order. Every prominent building — 


chateau, tower or windmill — was constantly under fire; 
shrapnel burst along the roadway, and half a mile to the left 
a wooded enclosure was speckled with white puffs. Two or 
three days at least would be required to make sound breast- 
works or properly constructed and drained trenches or rifle 
pits. Till then it must be mainly an affair of hedges and of 
houses; and the ineffective trenches were merely shell traps. 

Antwerp presented a case, till the Great War unknown, of 
an attacking force marching methodically without regular 
siege operations through a permanent fortress line behind ad- 
vancing curtains of artillery fire. Fort after fort was wrecked 
by the two or three monster howitzers; and line after line of 
shallow trenches was cleared by the fire of field guns. And 
following gingerly upon these iron footprints, German in- 
fantry, weak in numbers, raw in training, inferior in quality, 
wormed and waddled their way forward into 'the second 
strongest fortress in Europe/ 

As the fire of the German guns drew ever nearer to the city, 
and the shells began to fall each day upon new areas, the 
streams of country folk escaping from their ruined homes 
trickled pitifully along the roads, interspersed with stragglers 
and wounded. Antwerp itself preserved a singular calm. 
The sunlit streets were filled with people listening moodily 
to the distant firing. The famous spires and galleries of this 
ancient seat of wealth and culture, the spacious warehouses 
along the Scheldt, the splendid hotels 'with every modern 
convenience/ the general air of life, prosperity and civilisa- 
tion created an impression of serene security wholly contra- 
dicted by the underlying facts. It was a city in a trance. 

The Marines did not arrive until the morning of the 4th, 
and went immediately into the line. When I visited them the 
same evening they were already engaged with the Germans in 
the outskirts of Lierre. Here, for the first time, I saw German 
soldiers creeping forward from house to house or darting across 
the street. The Marines fired with machine-guns from a bal- 


cony. The flashes of the rifles and the streams of flame pul- 
sating from the mouth of the machine-guns lit up a warlike 
scene amid crashing reverberations and the whistle of bullets. 
Twenty minutes in a motor-car, and we were back in the 
warmth and light of one of the best hotels in Europe, with 
its perfectly appointed tables and attentive servants all pro- 
ceeding as usual ! 


The reply of the British Government reached me on the 
morning of the 4th, and I sent it at once to Monsieur de 

Lord Kitchener to First Lord. 

'Am arranging Expeditionary Force for relief of Antwerp 
as follows: — 

'British Force. 

1 7th Division, 18,000 men, 63 guns, under General Capper. 
Cavalry Division, 4,000 men, 12 guns, under General Byng, 
to arrive at Zeebrugge 6th and 7 th October. Naval detach- 
ment, 8,000 men already there, under General Aston, also 
Naval and Military heavy guns and detachments already 
sent. Head-quarter Staff will be subsequently notified. 

'French Force. 

'Territorial Division, 15,000 men, proper complement of 
guns and 2 squadrons, General Roy, to arrive Ostend 6th to 
9th October. Fusilier Marins Brigade, 8,000 men, under 
Rear- Admiral Ronarc'h. Grand total, 53,000 men. Num- 
bers are approximately correct.' 

Also one from Prince Louis, 10.30 a.m.: — 

'The Naval Brigades will embark at Dover at 4 p.m. for 
Dunkirk, where they should arrive between 7 or 8 o'clock. 
Provisions and ammunition as indicated in your telegram.' 

Monsieur de Broqueville replied: — 

AnverSj le 4 octobre, 1914^ 
J'ai Thonneur de vous confirmer notre accord sur les points 
envisages tantot. 


Comme je vous l'ai dit des notre premiere conversation, 
nous entendons, coute que coute, conserver Anvers. C'est 
pour nous un devoir national de premier ordre. 

Je tiens a vous repeter aussi que, si nous avons ete serieuse- 
ment affectes de ne pas voir nos puissants garants repondre 
plus tot a nos demandes de secours, notre volonte de lutter 
jusqu'a la mort n'a pas ete affaiblie un seul instant. L'appui 
des 9,000 fusiliers de marine envoyes par votre Gouvernement 
hier et demain est pour la conservation de la place d'Anvers 
un appui precieux. 

Plus precieux encore est l'envoi de la 7 e division, appuyee 
par la 3 e division de cavalerie. 

II serait d'extreme importance que ces troupes soient 
dirigees sur Gand avec le maximum de celerite: les heures 
ont en ce moment une exceptionnelle valeur. 

Les hautes autorites militaires et le Gouvernement tout 
entier, consultes par moi, acceptent avec une veritable satis- 
faction l'entente qui s'est etablie entre nous. 

Le Gouvernement a appris avec un sentiment de veritable 
gratitude que, s'il venait a etre fait prisonnier, le Gouverne- 
ment de la Grande-Bretagne ne traiterait pas sans son assenti- 
ment des questions interessant le sort de la Belgique au mo- 
ment ou se negociera la paix. 

Je me felicite tout particulierement des relations si sympa- 
thiques que je viens d'avoir avec Peminent homme d'Etat 
envoye ici par la grande nation si hautement appreciee et 
aimee par la Belgique. 

The matter had now passed into the region of pure action. 
Could Antwerp resist the enemy's attack long enough to 
enable the French and British relieving force to come to her 
aid? Secondly, if this succeeded, could nine or ten Allied 
divisions at Antwerp and Ghent hold the Germans in check 
until the left wing of the main armies, advancing daily from 
the south, could join hands with them? In that case the Al- 
lied lines in the west might be drawn through Antwerp, Ghent 
and Lille. All this turned on a few days, and even on a few 

Judged by the number of troops available on both sides, 


the chances of the Allies appeared good. On paper they were 
nearly twice as strong as the enemy. But the Belgian Army 
had been left without aid or comfort too long. The daily 
destruction of their trusted forts, the harsh and unceasing 
bombardment of a vastly superior artillery, their apprehen- 
sions for their line of retreat, the cruel losses and bufferings 
they had suffered since the beginning of the war, had de- 
stroyed their confidence and exhausted their strength. 

The prime and vital need was to maintain the defence of 
Antwerp against the unceasing artillery attack to which its 
whole southern front was exposed. The position behind the 
river was capable of being made a strong one. It was, po- 
tentially, stronger in many respects than the line of the Yser, 
along which a fortnight later this same Belgian Army, in spite 
of further losses and discouragements, was to make a most 
stubborn and glorious defence. But despondency in the face 
of an apparently irresistible artillery, and the sense of isola- 
tion, struck a deadly chill. 

Meanwhile, however, help was hurrying forward. The 
Marines were already in the line. Armoured trains with naval 
guns and British bluejackets came into action on the morn- 
ing of the 4th. The two Naval Brigades reached Dunkirk 
that night, and were due to enter Antwerp on the evening 
of the 5th. At the special request of the Belgian Staff they 
were to be interspersed with Belgian divisions to impart the 
encouragement and assurance that succour was at hand. 

The British 7th Division and 3rd Cavalry Division, carried 
daringly across the water upon personal orders from Prince 
Louis in the teeth of submarines, began to disembark at Os- 
tend and Zeebrugge from the morning of the 6th onward. 
The French division was embarking at Havre. Admiral Ro- 
narc'h and his 8,000 Fusiliers Marins were already entrained 
for Dunkirk. If only Antwerp could hold out. . . . 

Meanwhile, also, it must be remembered, Sir John French 
was secretly withdrawing the British Army from the Aisne 


and moving round behind the French front to the neighbour- 
hood of St. Omer with the intention of striking at Lille and 
beating in the German right. Every day that large German 
forces were detained in front of Antwerp helped and covered 
the detrainment and deployment of his army and increased 
its chances of success. But every day became graver also 
the peril to the Belgian Army of being cut off if, after all, the 
Germans should be the victors in the main battle. 

The anxieties and uncertainties of this tremendous situa- 
tion had to be supported by the Belgian chiefs in addition to 
those of the actual German attack battering on the crumbling 
Antwerp front and its exhausted defenders. That they were 
borne with constancy and coolness, that the defence was pro- 
longed for five momentous days, and that although the Ant- 
werp front was broken in before effective help could arrive, 
the Belgian Field Army was safely extricated, was a memorable 

The attitude of the King and Queen through these tense 
and tragic days was magnificent. The impression of the 
grave, calm soldier King presiding at Council, sustaining his 
troops and commanders, preserving an unconquerable maj- 
esty amid the ruin of his kingdom, will never pass from my 

Meanwhile Lord Kitchener and Prince Louis continued to 
give the necessary orders from London. 

I now found myself suddenly, unexpectedly and deeply 
involved in a tremendous and hideously critical local situa- 
tion which might well continue for some time. I had also 
assumed a very direct responsibility for exposing the city 
to bombardment and for bringing into it the inexperienced, 
partially equipped and partially trained battalions of the 
Royal Naval Division. I felt it my duty to see the matter 
through. On the other hand, it was not right to leave the 
Admiralty without an occupant. I therefore telegraphed 
on the 4th to the Prime Minister offering to take formal mili- 


tary charge of the British forces in Antwerp and tendering 
my resignation of the office of First Lord of the Admiralty. 
This offer was not accepted. I have since learned that Lord 
Kitchener wrote proposing that it should be. But other 
views prevailed: and I certainly have no reason for regret 
that they did so. I was informed that Sir Henry Rawlinson 
was being sent to the city and was requested to do my best 
until he arrived. 

October 5 was a day of continuous fighting. The situation 
fluctuated from hour to hour. I print the telegrams of this 
day in their sequence: — 

10.18 a.m., October 5. 

I telegraphed to Lord Kitchener: — 

'Line of the Nethe is intact. Marine Brigade holding 
important sector north-west of Lierre, has been briskly 
engaged during the night, with about seventy casualties so 
far. It seems not unlikely that the German attack will be 
directed on this point, as passage of river is easier there. I 
am making sure that they are properly supported by detach- 
ment of artillery. General Paris is doing very well. 

'Later. Infantry attack indicated now appears to be de- 
veloping. ' 

12.22 p.m. 

'It is my duty to remain here and continue my direction 
of affairs unless relieved by some person of consequence, in 
view of the situation and developing German attack. Pros- 
pects will not be unfavourable if we can hold out for next 
three days. We have a good deal of ground to sell, if it is 
well disputed, even if Nethe River is forced.' 

Lord Kitchener to First Lord:— 445 P " m * 

'I expect Rawlinson will reach Antwerp to-day. It is 
most necessary that Belgians should not give way before the 
forces now on the sea arrive for their support. You know 
date of arrival of troops at Ostend and Zeebrugge. I cannot 
accelerate anything owing to difficulties of navigation. Prince 
Louis is doing all he can. Are any of the guns we sent in 
action ? Our 9* 2 on line to Lierre ought to be useful. I hope 
Belgians realise the importance of holding Termonde so that 


relieving force may act promptly on the German left flank. 
The arrival of our troops should be kept very secret; by 
moving at night a surprise might be possible in the early 
morning. ' 

445 p.m. 
First Lord to Lord Kitchener: — 

' Attack has been pressed. Marines have stood well, with 
some loss, but, on their right, a regiment has fallen back 
under shell fire, and some German infantry to west of Lierre 
are across Nethe. General Paris has ordered four Belgian 
battalions and his reserve battalion to join another Belgian 
brigade to drive them back and reoccupy positions. This is 
now in progress. Every effort is being made to gain time. At 
9 p.m. to-night I am to attend Council of Ministers. I can 
get no news of time of arrival of naval brigades. They will 
be wanted to-morrow for certain.' 

Lord Kitchener to First Lord: — ' P' 

' I hear the Marine Fusilier Brigade had not arrived as ex- 
pected at Dunkirk to-day by train. I have in consequence 
telegraphed to French Government as follows: — 

'"As the Marine Fusilier Brigade is moving by train, and 
their arrival at Antwerp is urgently required, please ask 
Minister of War to continue their journey by train to Ant- 

'You might, I think, inform Belgian authorities, so as to 
have facilities for this force of 8,000 to proceed to wherever 
you think they would be most usefully employed without 
stopping at Ostend, and if they have not passed Dunkirk 
they might be warned of their destination.' 

First Lord to Lord Kitchener: — * 4 P' m * 

'We now hold all our positions along the Nethe, our 
counter-attack having been successful. Germans will prob- 
ably throw bridges in night at Lierre. On outskirts of Lierre 
we are in contact with Germans. I have just returned from 
advanced trenches and find marines cheerful and well dug in. 

' General Paris does not think that he has lost more than 
150 men killed and wounded. 

'I presume you keep Sir John French informed.' 


Admiralty to First Lord:— 7 * 15 p,m * 

'Sir H. Rawlinson just leaving Dunkirk for Antwerp via 
Bruges, where he stays to-night. Dunkirk reports naval 
brigades arrive Antwerp 1 a.m. Tuesday. First six transports, 
containing 10,000 troops, 2,000 horses, should arrive Zee- 
brugge from 4 a.m. onwards; 9,000 troops, 2,500 horses, arrive 
partly at Ostend, mainly at Zeebrugge, Wednesday morning; 
2,500 cavalry, 2,500 horses, arrive partly Ostend, partly Zee- 
brugge, Thursday morning. ' 

Lord Kitchener to Colonel Dallas: — * 4 ^ p * 

' You have been appointed as General Staff Officer on Expe- 
ditionary Force. Warn everybody to keep movement of 
troops absolutely secret. Try and bring off a complete or par- 
tial surprise on enemy's left; for this purpose movements of 
troops from sea-coast should be as much as possible at night. 
Am sending flying squadron, which will, I hope, protect troops 
from too inquisitive enemy's aircraft. Sir Henry Rawlinson 
has been appointed to chief command and will shortly arrive 

'All movements going as arranged.' 

In the evening I went to General Paris' Headquarters on 
the Lierre road for the purpose of putting him in command 
of the other two Naval Brigades about to arrive. The fire 
along this road was now heavier. Shrapnel burst overhead 
as I got out of the car and struck down a man at my feet. 
As we discussed around the cottage table, the whole house 
thudded and shook from minute to minute with the near 
explosions of shells whose flashes lit the window panes. In 
such circumstances was it that General Paris received from 
the representative of the Admiralty the command of the 
Royal Naval Division which he was destined to hold with so 
much honour until he fell grievously wounded in his trenches 
after three years' war. This was the most important mili- 
tary command exercised in the great war by an officer of the 
Royal Marines. 


The general result of the fighting on the 5 th raised our 
hopes. The counter-attack by one British and nine Belgian 
battalions drove the enemy back. All the positions that had 
been lost were regained, and the line of the Nethe was almost 
re-established. At midnight at the Belgian headquarters Gen- 
eral de Guise received in my presence by telephone a favour- 
able report from every single sector. The enemy had, how- 
ever, succeeded in maintaining a foothold across the river, 
and it seemed certain they would throw bridges in the night. 
General de Guise therefore resolved to make^, further coun- 
ter-attack under the cover of darkness in the hope of driving 
the enemy altogether across the river. At 1 a.m. I telegraphed 
as follows: — 

Antwerp, October 6, 1 a.m. 

First Lord to Lord Kitchener and Sir E. Grey: — 

'All well. All positions are held along the Nethe. I hope 
you will not decide finally on plan of operations till I can give 
you my views. I have met Ministers in Council, who re- 
solved to fight it out here, whatever happens. 

'No 9/2's have arrived yet, even at Ostend. , 

It was 2 o'clock before I went to bed. I had been moving, 
thinking and acting with very brief intervals for nearly four 
days in Council and at the front in circumstances of unde- 
fined but very direct responsibility. Certainly the situation 
seemed improved. The line of the Nethe was practically 
intact and the front unbroken. The Naval Brigades, already 
a day behind my hopes, were arriving in the morning. By 
land and sea troops were hastening forward. All the various 
personalities and powers were now looking the same way and 
working for the same object. France and Britain, the Ad- 
miralty and the War Office, the Belgian Government and 
the Belgian Command were all facing in the same direction. 
Rawlinson would arrive to-morrow, and my task would be 
concluded. But what would the morrow bring forth? I was 
now very tired, and slept soundly for some hours. 


All through the night the righting was continual, but no 
definite reports were available up till about 9 o'clock. At 
the Belgian Headquarters I was told that the Belgian night 
attack had miscarried, that the Germans were counter-at- 
tacking strongly, that the Belgian troops were very tired 
and the situation along the Nethe obscure. General Paris 
and the Marine Brigade were also heavily engaged. The 
Naval Brigades had arrived and detrained and were now 
marching to their assigned positions in the line. But where 
was the line ? It was one thing to put these partially trained 
and ill-equipped troops into a trench line, and quite another 
to involve them in the manoeuvres of a moving action. 
Solidly dug in with their rifles and plenty of ammunition, 
these ardent, determined men would not be easily dislodged. 
But they were not capable of manoeuvre. It seemed to me 
that they should take up an intermediate position until we 
knew what was happening on the front. General Paris was 
involved in close fighting with his brigade, and had not been 
able to take over command of the whole force. It was neces- 
sary, therefore, for me to give personal directions. I motored 
to the Belgian Headquarters, told General de Guise that these 
new troops must have fixed positions to fight in, and would 
be wasted if flung in piecemeal. I proposed to stop them 
about four miles short of their original destination as a sup- 
port and rallying line for the Belgian troops who were falling 
back. He agreed that this was wise and right, and I went 
myself to see that the orders were carried out. 

The moment one left the city gates the streams of wounded 
and of fugitives betokened heavy and adverse fighting. Shells 
from the enemy's field artillery were falling frequently on 
roads and villages which yesterday were beyond his range. 
We were by no means sure at what point the flow of refugees 
would end and the wave of pursuers begin. However, by 
about midday the three Naval and Marine Brigades were 
drawn up with the Belgian reserves astride of the Antwerp- 
Lierre road on the line Contich-Vremde. 

386 THE WORLx^ v,iv^ 

In this position we awaited the next development and ex- 
pected to be almost immediately attacked. The Germans 
to our relief did not molest the retirement of the three Bel- 
gian divisions. They waited to gather strength and to bring 
up and use again the remorseless artillery upon which they 
were mainly relying. As no German infantry appeared and 
no heavy bombardment began, the Naval Brigades moved 
forward in their turn and took up positions nearer to where 
the enemy had halted. I remained in the line on the Lierre 
road. Here at about 5 o'clock Sir Henry Rawlinson joined 

The General took, as might be expected, a robust view of 
the situation, and was by no means disposed to give up the 
quarrel either on the Antwerp front or on the line of com- 
munications, which were already being more severely pressed. 
In fact I found in this officer, whom I had known for many 
years, that innate, instinctive revolt against acquiescing in 
the will of the enemy which is an invaluable quality in mili- 
tary men. These sentiments were also shared by Colonel 
Bridges, former British military attache in Belgium, who 
had arrived from Sir John French. At 7 o'clock a Council of 
War was held in the Palace under the presidency of the King. 
We affirmed the readiness and ability of the British Govern- 
ment to execute punctually and fully the engagements into 
which we had entered two days earlier. But the Belgian 
chiefs were convinced that even if the Antwerp front along 
the line of the Nethe could be restored, the danger to their 
communications had become so great that they must with- 
out delay resume the movement of their army to the left bank 
of the Scheldt, which had been interrupted three days previ- 
ously. Here they conceived themselves able to join hands 
with any Anglo-French relieving force while at the same time 
securing their own retreat on Ghent, which they had already 
on September 4 reinforced by a brigade. It was not for 
us to contest their view, and events have shown that they 


were right. The arrangements set out in the following tele- 
gram were made: — 

Antwerp, October 6, 10.37 P- m - 

First Lord to Lord Kitchener: — 

1 Germans attacked our position along the Nethe early 
this morning. Belgian troops on the right of Marine brigade 
were overpowered. General retirement with some loss was 
effected to a lightly entrenched position on the line Contich- 
Vremde, where enemy are not for the moment pressing. Ger- 
mans will be enabled to bombard city to-morrow owing to lost 
ground. In view of this and of complete exhaustion and 
imminent demoralisation of Belgian Army, Rawlinson, who 
has arrived, has, with my full agreement and that of Belgian 
General Staff, ordered a general retirement to inner line of 
forts. The three naval brigades will hold intervals between 
forts and be supported by about a dozen Belgian battalions. 
On this line, which is very strong against infantry attack, our 
troops can certainly hold out as long as the city will endure 
bombardment. Had naval brigades arrived 24 hours earlier, 
we could probably have held line of the Nethe. They have 
not been engaged, and marines have not lost more than 200 

'This evening Rawlinson and I attended a council of war 
presided over by the King. We suggested an attempt to re- 
establish Anglo-Belgian forces on line of the Nethe by employ- 
ing 7th Division in a counter-attack in 48 hours' time, but 
they had all clearly made up their minds that their army was 
not in a fit condition to co-operate in any offensive movement. 
Accordingly we have arranged with them: — 

'(1.) That while the town endures bombardment General 
Paris with naval division and Belgian support will defend 
inner line forts to the utmost. 

'(2.) That the rest of the Belgian Field Army shall be im- 
mediately withdrawn across the Scheldt to what they call the 
entrenched camp of the left bank. This area is protected by 
the Scheldt, various forts and entrenchments, and large inun- 
dations, and here they hope to find time to recover and re- 
form. From this position they will aid to the best of their 
ability any relieving movement which may be possible from 
the west. 


'(3.) Rawlinson will organise relieving force at Ghent and 
Bruges and prepare to move forward as soon as possible. 

1 But I shall hope to-morrow to convince you that it should 
be strengthened for the operation. 

'We are all agreed that in the circumstances there is no 
other course open. 

'I return with Rawlinson to-night to Bruges, and early 
to-morrow morning shall be in London. 

' Aviation park and heavy guns will be moved from Ant- 

General Rawlinson and I left the city together that night, 
and after an anxious drive over roads luckily infested by 
nothing worse than rumour, I boarded the Attentive at Ostend 
and returned to England. 

So far as the personal aspect of this story is concerned, I 
cannot feel that I deserve the reproaches and foolish fictions 
which have been so long freely and ignorantly heaped upon 
me. I could not foresee that the mission I undertook would 
keep me away from the Admiralty for more than forty- 
eight hours, or that I should find myself involved in another 
set of special responsibilities outside the duties of the office 
which I held. No doubt had I been ten years older, I should 
have hesitated long before accepting so unpromising a task. 
But the events occurred in the order I have described; and 
at each stage the action which I took seemed right, natural 
and even inevitable. Throughout I was held in the grip of 
emergencies and of realities which transcended considerations 
of praise or blame. 1 

1 But see Lord Esher: 'One night he (Kitchener) was in bed asleep, 
when Mr. Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, bursting into 
the room, pleaded for the War Minister's permission to leave at once 
for Antwerp. In spite of the late hour, Sir Edward Grey arrived in 
the middle of the discussion, and while he was engaging Lord Kitchener's 
attention, Mr. Churchill slipped away. He was next heard of when a 
telegram from Antwerp was put into Lord K.'s hands, in which his 
impetuous colleague asked bravely to be allowed to resign his great 


But, after all, it is by the results and as a whole that the 
episode will be judged; and these as will be shown were cer- 
tainly advantageous to the Allied cause. 

After the departure of the Belgian Field Army the further 
defence of the remaining lines of Antwerp was left to the 
fortress troops, the 2nd Belgian Division, and the three Brit- 
ish Naval Brigades, who held on their front the equivalent of 
more than five complete German divisions, to wit: the 5th 
Reserve, 6th Reserve, 4th Ersatz and Marine Division, and 
the 26th, 37th, and 1st Bavarian Landwehr Brigades. 

At midnight on the 7th the Germans, having advanced 
their artillery, began to bombard the city and the forts of 
the inner line. The forts melted under the fire, and a great 
proportion of the civil population fled through the night, 
lighted by conflagrations, over the bridges of the Scheldt to 
the open country, along the roads towards Ghent or into Hol- 
land. The enemy's attack was pressed continuously, and the 
enceinte of the city was considered to be untenable by the 
evening of the 8th. The Belgian Division and the British 
Naval Brigades evacuated Antwerp that night, crossed the 
Scheldt safely, and began their retreat by road and rail on 
Ghent and Ostend. Two naval airmen, 1 as a Parthian shot, 
blew up after long flights a Zeppelin in its shed at Diisseldorf 
and bombed the railway station at Cologne. German patrols, 
after many precautions, entered Antwerp towards evening on 

office, to be given command of a Naval Brigade, and pleading that 
reinforcements should be hurried out to those "forlorn and lonely 
men," as he called them, who were vainly trying to hold on to the Ant- 
werp lines. Lord K. was not upset, but he was not unmoved, etc. 
. . .' — The Tragedy of Lord Kitchener, p. 67. 

It is remarkable that Lord Esher should be so much astray; for 
during the war I showed him the text of the telegrams printed in this 
chapter and now made public for the first time. We must conclude 
that an uncontrollable fondness forbade him to forsake fiction for fact. 
Such constancy is a defect in an historian. W. S. C. 

1 Commanders Marix and Spenser-Grey. 


the 9th, and on the 10th the stouthearted Governor, who 
had retired to one of the surviving forts, capitulated. 

The resistance of the city had been prolonged by five 



The Purpose of the Antwerp Effort — The Belgian Army effects its 
Retreat — Loss and Gain — Ten Precious Days — Onslaught of the 
German Reinforcements — The Struggle for the Channel Ports — 
Labours of the Admiralty — Achievements of the Transport De- 
partment — Correspondence with Sir John French — General Joffre 
requests Naval Support — Admiral Hood's Operations on the 
Belgian Coast — Commodore Tyrwhitt destroys the German Tor- 
pedo Boats — The German Armies reach Salt Water — Beginning 
of the Battle of the Yser — The Inshore Squadron — 'One Flank 
the Germans cannot turn' — Further Correspondence with Sir 
John French — The Crisis of the Battle — The German Advance 
Stemmed — Effect of Antwerp on the Main Decision. 

THE object of prolonging the defence of Antwerp was, 
as has been explained, to give time for the French and 
British Armies to rest their left upon that fortress and hold 
the Germans from the seaboard along a line Antwerp- Ghent- 
Lille. This depended not only upon the local operations but 
on the result of the series of outflanking battles which marked 
the race for the sea. A decisive victory gained by the French 
in the neighbourhood of Peronne, or by the British beyond 
Armentieres and towards Lille would have opened all this 
prospect. High French authorities have concluded that a 
more rapid and therefore no doubt more daring transference 
of force from the right and centre of the French front to its 
left, 'looking sixty kilometres ahead instead of twenty-five/ 
and generally a more vigorous attempt to outflank the Ger- 
mans following immediately upon the victory of the Marne 
and the arrest of the armies at the Aisne, might well have 
shouldered the Germans not only away from the sea, but even 
out of a large part of occupied France. In the event, however, 



and with the forces employed, the French and British did not 
succeed in turning the enemy's flank. The battles at Albert, 
La Bassee and Armentieres produced no decisive result; 
Peronne and Lille could not be reached and the fighting lines 
continued simply to prolong themselves to the north-west. 
The retention of Antwerp would have rewarded the victory 
of the main armies with a prize of the utmost value. Its ex- 
tended resistance diminished the consequences of their failure. 
Everything at Antwerp had depended on a victory to the 
southward. And this victory had been denied. Nevertheless, 
as will now be shown, the effort was fruitful in a remarkable 

The fall of Antwerp released the besieging army. A marine 
division marched into the city on the ioth. 1 The rest of the 
German divisions were already streaming south and west in 
hot pursuit, and hoped for interception of the Belgian Army. 
But a surprise awaited them. 

On the night of the 9th the German forces who had crossed 
the Dendre river had come in contact with French Fusiliers 
Marins at Melle and Meirelbeke, and during the ioth they 
found themselves in presence of British regular troops of un- 
known strength, whose patrols were feeling their way forward 
from Ghent to meet them. The 7th Division and the 3rd 
Cavalry Division had come upon the scene in accordance 
with the fourth condition of the Anglo-Belgian agreement of 
October 4. The British, French and Belgian forces from 
Ghent thus threatened the left flank of any serious German 
cutting-off movement northwards to the Dutch frontier. 

Uncertain of the size of the army by which they were con- 
fronted, and mystified by the indefinite possibilities of land- 
ings from the sea, the Germans paused to collect their strength. 

1 It was perhaps an unconscious recognition of the naval significance 
of Antwerp that all three great Powers — Germany, France and Britain 
— used in its attack and defence Naval Brigades formed since the out- 
break of war 


They knew that the bulk of the British Army had already 
left the Aisne. Where was it? Where would it reappear? 
What were these British regulars, who stood so confidently 
in their path? On the 12th when they considered themselves 
strong enough to advance upon Ghent, the whole of the Bel- 
gian Field Army had passed the dangerous points in safety, 
only one single squadron being intercepted. Of this com- 
plicated operation the victorious Germans became specta- 

Only weak parties of Germans ventured beyond Lokeren 
during the night of the 9th-ioth to molest the retreat of 
the Antwerp troops. The 2nd Belgian Division and two out 
of the three Naval Brigades came through intact. But the 
railway and other arrangements for the rear brigade were mis- 
understood, and about two and a half battalions of very tired 
troops, who through the miscarriage of an order had lost some 
hours, were led across the Dutch frontier in circumstances 
on which only those who know their difficulties are entitled 
to form a judgment. 

If the Belgian Field Army had begun its withdrawal on 
October 3, as originally intended, it could probably have got 
safely without aid to Ghent and beyond. But the fortress 
troops, numbering many thousands, to whom it had been 
throughout resolved to confide the last defence of Antwerp, 
must in any case have been driven into surrender to the in- 
vader or internment in Holland once the Field Army had 
gone. The prolongation of the defence and the delay in the 
departure of the Field Army neither bettered nor worsened 
their fortunes. They, therefore, do not enter into any calcu- 
lation of the loss and gain attendant on the attempted opera- 
tion of relief. So far as actual results are concerned, the 
damage caused by the bombardment of the city, which was 
not extensive, and the internment of two and a half British 
Naval battalions, on the one hand, must be weighed against 
the gain of five days in the resistance and the influence exer- 


cised on subsequent events by the 7th Division and 3rd Cav- 
alry Division on the other. 

At the time the British Government decided to send help 
to Antwerp the total German field force in Northern Belgium 
had been correctly estimated at four or five divisions. But 
before the city capitulated and while the British troops were 
still at Ghent, there began to manifest itself that tremendous 
unexpected development of German force which from the mo- 
ment of Antwerp's fall was launched against the Allied left 
and aimed at Calais. 

Besides the liberated Siege Army and the troops which 
had threatened the Antwerp communications, no fewer than 
four fresh Army Corps (XXIInd, XXIIIrd, XXVIth and 
XXVIIth), newly formed in Germany and concentrating in 
Belgium, were already at hand. And in front of this formi- 
dable army there stood from October 10 to October 21 only 
the wearied Belgians, the Fusiliers Marins, and the British 
3rd Cavalry and 7th Divisions. The caution of the German 
advance may perhaps have been induced by their uncer- 
tainty as to the whereabouts and intentions of the British 
Army, and their fear that it might be launched against their 
right from the sea flank. But, however explained, the fact 
remains, and to it we owe the victory of the Yser and Ever- 
Glorious Ypres. 

A simple examination of dates will reveal the magnitude 
of the peril which the Allied cause escaped. Antwerp fell 
twenty-four hours after the last division of the Belgian Field 
Army left the city. Had this taken place on October 3rd or 
4th, the city would have surrendered on the 4th or 5th. No 
British 4th Corps 1 or Fusiliers Marins would have been at 
Ghent to cover the Belgian retreat. But assuming that the 
Belgian Army had made this good unaided, the same marches 
would have carried them and their German pursuers to the 
Yser by the 10th. There would have been nothing at all in 
1 Rawlinson's Force was so styled. 


front of Ypres. Sir John French could not come into action 
north of Armentieres till the 15th. His de trainmen ts at St. 
Omer, etc., were not completed till the 19th. Sir Douglas 
Haig with the 1st Corps could not come into line north of 
Ypres till about the 21st. Had the German Siege Army been 
released on the 5th, and followed by their great reinforce- 
ments already available advanced at once nothing could have 
saved Dunkirk, and perhaps Calais and Boulogne. The loss 
of Dunkirk was certain and that of both Calais and Boulogne 
probable. Ten days were wanted, and ten days were won. 

We had now without respite to meet the great German 
drive against the Channel ports. The six divisions released 
from the siege of Antwerp, and the eight new divisions, whose 
apparition had been so unexpected to the British and French 
Staffs, rolled southward in a double-banked wave. The Bel- 
gian Army trooped back in a melancholy procession along the 
sea-shore to the Yser. General Rawlinson, with the 7 th 
Division and the 3rd Cavalry Division, extricating himself 
skilfully from large German forces — how great was not then 
known — and lingering at each point to the last minute with- 
out becoming seriously engaged, found himself by October 
15 in the neighbourhood of a place called Ypres. 1 Meanwhile 
Sir John French, detraining at St. Omer, and hopefully be- 
lieving that he was turning the German right, struck through 
Armentieres towards Lille, and sent imperative orders to 
Rawlinson, over whose head the storm was about to break, to 
advance in conformity and seize Menin. The French forces 
intended for the relief of Antwerp and the beginnings of 
larger French reinforcements endeavoured to close the gap 
between Rawlinson and the Belgians. The dykes were opened 

1 The heavy losses of the 7th Division have often been attributed 
to their attempt to relieve Antwerp. In fact, however, these losses 
did not begin until after they had joined the main army. 


and large inundations began to appear. In this manner was 
formed a thin, new, loosely organised, yet continuous allied 
front from the neighbourhood of La Bassee to the sea at the 
mouth of the Yser; and upon this front, which grew up and 
fixed itself at every point in and by the actual collision of hos- 
tile forces, was now to be fought the third great battle in the 

These events involved the Admiralty at many points. The 
position of Rawlinson's troops in the presence of vastly su- 
perior forces was precarious, and for some days we stood 
ready to re-embark them. We laboured to salve everything 
possible from the Belgian wreck. The Royal Naval Division 
must be brought back to refit, re-organise and resume its 
interrupted training. The Admiralty details — aeroplanes, 
armoured trains, armoured cars, motor omnibus transport, 
etc. — with which I had been endeavouring during the pre- 
vious weeks to conceal our nakedness in the vital coastal area, 
could now be merged in the arriving British armies. 

It would not have been possible to deal with these com- 
plications — themselves only one subsidiary part of our task 
— unless Prince Louis and I, working in complete accord, had 
had the power to give orders covering the whole business 
which were unquestioningly obeyed. Yet some of the orders 
which I was forced to give to the Admiralty Transport De- 
partment left me with misgivings that we were asking more 
than they could do. Fortunately, a few weeks before, I had 
taken the step of appointing in the place of the retired Ad- 
miral who usually directed this cardinal machine the young 
civilian Assistant Director of Transports, whose abilities in 
conference and on paper were distinguished. Often in these 
weeks and in the succeeding months I had to turn to Mr. 
Graeme Thomson's department with hard and complex de- 
mands. Never did they fail. October 10 was the climax of 
their strain. I cannot do better than quote the minute I 
wrote at the time: — 


Secretary. 10/10/14. 

First Sea Lord. 

Director of Transports and others concerned. 

1. Between 5,000 and 6,000 men of the R.N. Division are 
assembling at Ostend. They will not be ready to embark 
until to-morrow, the nth. The whole of these, including 
Marines, should sail after dark on the nth for Dover and pro- 
ceed to the camp at Deal, all previous orders to the contrary 
being cancelled. 

2. 1,500 Belgian recruits and volunteers are at Ostend, 
and are to be embarked at once for Cherbourg, the French 
authorities being informed by telegram. 

3. The transportation of the 11,000 Belgian recruits and 
reservists at Dunkirk to Cherbourg is to continue without 
intermission as rapidly as possible. The Belgians will be 
rationed by the Admiralty while on board ship, and the Bel- 
gians at Dunkirk will be rationed from the supplies of the R.N. 
Division until embarked. 

4. All transports are to leave Zeebrugge at once, and all 
transports, other than those employed above, which are not 
accommodated in safe shelter at Ostend, are to leave in both 
cases for convenient British ports. 

5. Enough transports to embark the 7 th Division and the 
3rd Cavalry Division are to be kept in immediate readiness, 
with steam up, for the next forty-eight hours, in Ostend, 
Dunkirk, Dover, and the Thames. It is unlikely, having 
regard to the military situation, that any re-embarkation will 
be required, but we must be continually prepared for it, and 
should an emergency arise, both Zeebrugge and Ostend must 
be used, notwithstanding any risks. Flotilla dispositions to 
be arranged accordingly. General Rawlinson to be informed 
that we are holding these ships in readiness, and that he should 
communicate direct with the Admiralty by telephone if at 
any moment the situation renders his re-embarkation likely. 
We are assuming that he could give us twelve hours' notice, 
within which time the transports could be counted upon. 

6. All Marines and R.N. Division details at Dunkirk are 
to be re-embarked and brought back via Dover to Deal. 

7. Colonel Osmaston's Marine Artillery are to remain at 
Dunkirk for the present. 

8. The armoured trains and naval ratings working them, 


and all available aeroplanes and armed motor-cars, except 
those now at Dunkirk under the command of Commander 
Samson, are placed under the orders of General Rawlinson. 

9. The three monitors are to be held in readiness, with 
steam up, to cover a re-embarkation at Ostend or Zeebrugge, 
should it become necessary. General Rawlinson is to be told 
to telephone or telegraph if at any time he thinks such naval 
protection will be required. 

10. The Transport Department will provide whatever ships 
are necessary to carry the stores, ammunition, and materiel 
of the Belgian field army. The transports standing by for 
the 7th Division and the 3rd Cavalry Division are a prior 
claim on our resources. But as there is no doubt that we can 
meet the two, the Transport Department is to get into direct 
telephonic communication with the Belgian authorities and 
arrange forthwith for the beginning of the embarkation of 
these stores. For the embarkation of stores, as apart from 
troops, Zeebrugge may be used equally with Ostend. 

n. 8,000 to 10,000 Belgian wounded are to be evacuated 
from Ostend to England as speedily as possible. The Trans- 
port Department is to make proposals and preparations for 
their movement, while at the same time the necessary arrange- 
ments for their reception in this country are being concerted 
by the medical authorities. 

12. All motor transports of the R.N. Division, excluding 
armed and other motor-cars under Commander Samson 
actually employed, are to be collected at Dunkirk under 
Colonel Dumble, who is to reorganise them as quickly as pos- 
sible, and will receive further instructions on that subject. 

w. s. c. 

It was with a feeling of relief and of admiration that I saw all 
these immense demands smoothly and punctually complied 

While in Antwerp I had been in constant communication 
with Sir John French both through Colonel Bridges and by 
aeroplane. On October 5 he had written, ' Thank you so 
much for writing so fully and clearly to me from Antwerp. 
If the place is to be saved you have saved it by your prompt 
action. As a matter of principle I hate putting mobile troops 


inside a fortress, but in this case it is very likely that the 
appearance of a large force inside the place may have a great 
moral effect. But the situation ought to be most carefully 
watched. . . .' The Field Marshal proceeded to complain of 
the exclusion by Lord Kitchener of the forces under General 
Rawlinson from the main British army. What would happen 
if and when he joined up with them ? Other points of differ- 
ence arose between the Commander-in-Chief and the Secre- 
tary of State. 'I shall do the best I can/ the former con- 
tinued, Ho bring relief to the place at the earliest possible 
moment and am arranging to concentrate in the North as 
quickly as circumstances will allow. The Germans are push- 
ing out their flank defence towards the West and South- 
West. . . .' He expressed a wish that we could meet. 

I replied to this on October 11 when the fate of Antwerp 
was already decided. Using my old and intimate friendship 
with the Field Marshal I laboured as always to smooth the 
differences between him and Lord Kitchener. 

I consider that Kitchener has been thoroughly loyal to you, 
and has done and is doing everything in human power to 
support you. It would be disastrous to the cause and ruin- 
ous to all if there were any breakdown in true comradeship 
between you and Kitchener. Military staffs always tend to 
make mischief between principals, and try to set their caps 
at each other. 

The fall of Antwerp was a great and untimely injury to the 
Allied cause. I do not agree with the policy which aban- 
doned it *; and I fear you will now have the army which was 
before Antwerp to meet almost immediately. But I care for 
nothing but the future in war. I clear my heart of all use- 
less reflections and sterile controversies. It is vain to look 
backwards, and I turn my gaze with hope to the re-entry of 
the British army into the decisive centre of the struggle and 
pray for the victory. 

I am arranging the omnibuses and armoured cars for you 
as quickly as possible Rawlinson has got a very good naval 

1 i.e. The absence of a greater French effort. 


armoured train which I have attached to him, but which 
you had better take over when he joins up. 

The destruction of the Zeppelin and its shed was a gallant 
feat of arms. 

Naval affairs at the moment imperatively keep me here — 
Alas! I hope you will not allow JorTre to deprive you of 
Dunkirk as your advanced base and fortified camp. In view 
of embarkation facilities Calais or Boulogne ought to be en- 
trenched too — so that you have both. But we all feel Dun- 
kirk is the right place, and belongs to you. 

The wave of [German] reinforcements from the East, and 
the slow development of the Russian pressure, makes the 
situation rather grim just now. 

I hope greatly to see you soon. Only five hours from your 
lines ! 

I earnestly trust the day goes well. But anyhow we will 
compel the end to do so. 

You will want the big army I expect before your task is 

On October 16 General Joffre telegraphed to Lord Kitchener 
as follows: — 

'Now that the operations extend up to the coast of the 
North Sea between Ostend and the advanced defences of 
Dunkirk, it would be important for the two Allied Navies to 
participate in these operations by supporting our left wing 
and acting with long-range guns on the German right wing. 
The Commander of the Naval Forces would then act in con- 
cert with General Foch through the Governor of Dunkirk/ 

This duty we instantly accepted. 

First Lord to Sir John French. 

October 17, 1914. 
* Monitors were delayed by weather, but will be in position 
from daylight 18th; meanwhile eight destroyers should have 
arrived on the flank between 4 and 5 p.m. 17th, and two scout 
cruisers an hour later. They have been told to communicate 
with Colonel Bridges on the quays of Nieuport. 


We are sending two battleships mounting eight 12-inch 
guns to Dunkirk roadstead to-morrow to cover the fortress 
and its coast approaches. 

We set to work forthwith to support the Allied left flank. 
I entrusted this operation, which required an officer of first 
quality, to Admiral Hood, till then my Naval Secretary. He 
was now appointed to the Dover Command, while I took in 
his stead Admiral Oliver. On the 18th the three ex-Brazilian 
monitors, renamed Humber, Mersey and Severn, escorted by 
four destroyers, arrived at Dunkirk and the memorable series 
of naval operations on the Belgian Coast began. 

There was no difficulty in finding plenty of ships of differ- 
ent classes to cover the flank of the army. Besides the three 
monitors, a large proportion of the destroyers from Dover 
were readily available. There were many old battleships, 
and these at certain states of the tide could get into suitable 
positions for bombarding. In addition there was the Scout 
class, seven of which were available, all happily newly rearmed 
with the very best 4-inch guns. But Admiralty reserves 
of ammunition had been based upon the needs of purely naval 
actions, which are few and far between, and not many of which 
all ships survive. Bombarding the German positions on the 
Belgian Coast week after week, and possibly for months, made 
demands upon our stores of a totally different character. We 
had to pick ships primarily for the class of ammunition they 
fired; ships that could use up old ammunition and ships whose 
value was so small that we could afford to spend all their am- 
munition. As October wore on we scoured the dockyards 
for every little vessel that carried a gun of any kind. Even 
the smallest gunnery tenders, 250 ton gunboats forty years old, 
were pressed into service, and in one way cr another the fire 
was continuously maintained. 

It was evident that these operations would have to be 
carried on under unceasing submarine attack. Moreover, 


we had to be prepared for a sudden dash by German cruisers 
and destroyers. We trusted to Commodore Tyrwhitt with 
the Harwich Striking Force either to protect us from this 
or to exact retribution on the return journey. On the 17th 
the Germans, torn between the will to wound and the fear 
to strike, broke all the commandments of the text books by 
sending a feeble force of four small destroyers from the Ems 
down the Dutch Coast. They were almost immediately de- 
stroyed by the Commodore, the British ships engaged being 
the light cruiser Undaunted and the destroyers Lance, Lennox, 
Legion and Loyal. 

From the middle of October onwards the German hosts 
could look upon salt water. First Zeebrugge was occupied, 
then Ostend, then mile by mile the sand-dunes and golf courses 
and gay villas of that pleasure coast were devoured by invad- 
ing war. In his first contact with the new element the land 
monster committed several imprudences. Apparently con- 
temptuous of the power of ships' guns, he deployed batteries 
of artillery on the open beach, and opened fire on our Scouts 
and destroyers. These experiments were not repeated. A 
Swedish writer, Dr. Sven Hedin, at that time with the 
German armies, belauding them and bowing obsequiously be- 
fore what he had convinced himself was world-conquering 
power, has described a scene in the restaurant of the best 
Ostend hotel. The room was crowded with hungry officers of 
the invading army, just marched in, all sitting down to ex- 
cellent fare. 

'A destroyer had just detached itself from the rest and 
was making at full speed for Ostend, parallel with the coast, 
as close as possible to the shore. Presently another destroyer 
appeared, following in the wake of the first. What could they 
want, these ruffians ? Strong language was heard — it was a 
piece of consummate impudence to come steaming right under 
our noses like this. Evidently they were reconnoitring — but 
what insolence, they must have known that we had occupied 


Ostend! Aha! they suspect that there are submarines and 
destroyers in the inner harbour, and want to see whether they 
can detect anything from outside! . . . Astounding in- 
solence. Two small German guns are hurried up. " Are they 
going to shoot ?" I asked. "Oh, yes, they are going to shoot 
all right." . . . The first shot rang out. . . . Directly the 
German shots had been fired, the two destroyers swung round 
to port and at the same moment opened fire. Their guns 
seemed to flash out straight at us.' . . . 

The results were instantaneous. The restaurant, which 
had been 'one of the most elegant in Europe/ was blasted 
into a smoking shambles of ruin and death. 

In this manner the German Army and the British Navy 
first came into contact with one another. 

Here are a few of our messages at that time: — 

October 17, 19 14, 1.2 p.m. 
Admiralty to Rear- Admiral Hood, Dover. 

Most important to send the scouts at once and some de- 
stroyers to Dunkirk to work along the coast to Nieuport to 
support the Belgian left, now being attacked by the Germans; 
also monitors as soon as weather permits. 


7.20 p.m. 
Admiralty to Rear-Admiral Hood, H.M.S. 'Attentive.' 

Belgian Army is on line River Yser left bank, from Nieu- 
port to Dixmude, with advanced posts on E. bank at Lombart- 
zyde Rattevalle and Mannekensvere. 

King is at La Panne, the last village on French coast 

The role of ships is as follows: — 

Firstly, to prevent any disembarkation of German troops 
between Nieuport and La Panne and to South-West. 

Secondly to fire against enemy, which are advancing on 


8. 20 p.m. 

Admiralty to Commodore Tyrwhitt, H.M.S. 'Maidstone.,' 

The first German attempt to send destroyers down the 
Broad Fourteens being so successfully defeated may cause a 
larger number to be sent next time: be ready to meet them. 
We are sending scouts and destroyers to support the Belgian 
left at Nieuport. 

Two battleships are leaving Portland to-night for Dover, 
four more destroyers are being sent to escort them. There- 
fore, if you can spare four destroyers, send them temporarily 
for Dover patrol to arrive at daylight. 

October 19. 
Rear- Admiral Hood to Admiralty. 
Engagement continues at Nieuport. I believe that naval 
bombardment has done harm to enemy. 

6-inch ammunition is urgently required for monitors, and 
must be sent as soon as possible, otherwise they will be use- 

October 21, 10.55 P- m - 
Rear- Admiral Hood to Admiralty. 
Fired to-day n hours continuously, could see no improve- 
ment in situation. Patrolling coast every night. Monitors 
expended 600 6-inch shells daily. In Foresight alone 1,100 
shells fired to-day, and even then unable to comply with all 

October 22. 
Rear- Admiral Hood, Dunkirk, to First Lord. 
I have returned for a few hours to Dunkirk, at the request 
of Colonel Bridges, to confer on future movements. 
I have enough ships. 
Firing has been less to-day. 

In the event of a sudden northerly gale, the mom tors and 
Bustard would be lost. This is a justifiable risk if they are 
doing valuable work, and is much less than submarine risk. 

On the 1 8th instant requests for naval assistance were made 
to the Admiralty by the Allied Commanders. In consequence 
a naval flotilla, mounting a large number of powerful long 


range guns, came into action at daybreak on the 19th off the 
Belgian Coast, supporting the left of the Belgian Army and 
firing against the right of the German attack, which they were 
by their position able to enfilade. The Germans replied by 
shells from their heavy guns, but owing to the superior range 
of the British Marine Artillery practically no damage has 
been done. The three monitors, which were building in 
British ports for Brazil and were acquired on the outbreak 
of war, have proved particularly well suited to this class of 
operation. A heavy bombardment of the German flank has 
been maintained without intermission since the morning of 
the 19th and is being continued to-day. Observation is ar- 
ranged from the shore by means of naval balloons, and all 
reports indicate that substantial losses have been inflicted 
upon the enemy and that the fire is well directed and effec- 
tive against his batteries and heavy guns. Yesterday a heavy 
explosion, probably of an ammunition wagon, followed upon 
a naval shot. The naval losses have so far been very small 
considering the damage done and the important assistance 
rendered to the Belgian left flank. All reports received by 
the Admiralty show the courage and determination with 
which the Belgian Army, animated by the King in person, is 
defending the last few miles of Belgian soil. The naval opera- 
tions are under the command of Rear-Admiral the Hon. 
Horace L. A. Hood, C.B., M.V.O., D.S.O. 

October 23, 1.5 a.m. 
Admiralty to Rear-Admiral Hood. 
From First Lord. 

* Vital to sustain Belgian Army with effective Naval Artil- 
lery support to-morrow. 

Arrange details with Bridges. 

Am sending Gunnery School tenders to Dunkirk; draw upon 
them as you need. 

Recognise importance to Navy of dominating Belgian 
Coast; make the most of your opportunity. 

October 23. 
Rear-Admiral Hood to First Lord. 
Thanks for message. All going well. 
Will bombard Ostend. Belgian Head-quarters granted 
Am quite satisfied that our firing has done good. 



All yesterday the monitors and other vessels of the British 
bombarding flotilla fired on the German right, which they 
searched thoroughly and effectively in concert with the opera- 
tions of the Belgian Army. All German attacks on Nieuport 
were repulsed. Much damage was done to the enemy by 
naval fire which enfilades the German line, and enemy's pris- 
oners taken yesterday and the day before testify to the heavy 
losses they have suffered from this cause. Fire was also 
opened in the afternoon on the German batteries near Ostend. 
Admiral Hood now has a fine flotilla of vessels very suitable 
for this work and at the same time not of great naval value. 
During the day our ships were persistently attacked by an 
enemy's submarine, and torpedoes were fired without success 
at Wildfire and Myrmidon. Other British vessels again at- 
tacked the submarine. The naval aeroplanes and balloons 
aided in the direction of the fire. The weather continued fine 
and favourable. No loss was sustained by the flotillas yes- 

October 26, 12.21 a.m. 
Rear- Admiral Hood to Admiralty. 

Am off Nieuport. All well here. Have not succeeded so 
well to-day owing to long range of German batteries, which 
are not yet located by me. Aeroplanes reconnoitre the place 
when weather permits, and, if located, shall attack batteries 
with guns I can muster. Portion of shell on board here proves 
bigger guns. 

Admiralty to Senior Naval Officer, Dover. 

Urgent. Order Venerable 1 to raise steam at once ready to 
proceed to support Allied left off Nieuport. Report how 
soon she can be ready to proceed. 

Four destroyers must accompany her. 

October 27, 11.30 p.m. 
First Lord to Rear- Admiral Hood. 
Certainly go on, husband ammunition till good targets 
show, but risks must be run and Allies' left must be supported 

1 A battleship. 


without fail by the Navy. You have all done very well, and 
on land the line has been maintained. Keep it up. 

October 28, 1.37 a.m, 
Rear- Admiral Hood to Admiralty. 
The Belgian authorities begged me to fire more rapidly. 
Deliberate firing will not produce more results as it is un- 
marked. I understand that 48 hours of clinging to Nieu- 
port may achieve decisive results. If I am to order the firing 
to be deliberate, I shall not be able to do what the Belgian 
army requires. 

October 28, 4.34 p.m. 

Rear-Admiral Hood to Admiralty. 
Have continued bombardment against increasing opposi- 
tion. Captain of Falcon and five men killed and several 
wounded. Wildfire hit on the water line and sent in for re- 
pairs. Brilliant one killed and several wounded. Rinaldo 
eight wounded. . . . Submarine sighted — all destroyers now 
chasing [her]. Venerable has just grounded on sand-bank out 
of gunfire. Tide rising, fine weather. She will be off in 
half an hour. 

October 29, 1 a.m. 

First Lord to Rear -Admiral Hood. 

Save ammunition where possible, but don't lose any chance 
of hitting the enemy. Give your ships the following mes- 
sage: 'The inshore flotilla and squadron have played an 
appreciable part in the great battle now proceeding. You 
have shown the Germans that there is one flank they cannot 

You have full discretion to go ahead. 

Meanwhile the British Army was heavily engaged. Sir 
John French wrote to me October 21: — 

I began this letter two days ago. I had to stop in the 
middle of a sentence and hadn't a single minute to go on 
with it. We have been hard pressed the last two days. The 
enemy has received considerable reinforcements and a big 
battle has been raging all along our front from a point 10 


miles North of Ypres to La Bassee, which is W.S.W. of Lille. 
We have given way now and then in places and recovered 
the ground again — and on the whole have lost nothing (ex- 
cept unfortunately, men and officers !) although the enemy 
has attacked with the utmost vigour. 

I have been all along the line but the ground is so flat and 
the buildings so numerous that it is impossible to see much 
of the infantry work. I have this moment got a wire from 
the ist Corps that they have captured 350 prisoners this 
afternoon. . . . 

He ended by some very friendly expressions about Kitchener 
and my part in clearing up misunderstandings; also with 
some kind words about Antwerp. 

Mr. Churchill to Sir John French. 
(Private and Secret.) 

I am touched and honoured by the kindness of your letter 
written from the field of Armentieres. It was a disappoint- 
ment to have to give up my visit but the press of events here 
was decisive. 

Antwerp was a bitter blow to me, and some aspects of it 
have given a handle to my enemies, and perhaps for a time 
reduced my power to be useful. From minute to minute one 
does not know that some fine ship will not be blown up by 
mine or submarine. 1 Great good fortune has attended us so 
far. Out of twenty-five submarine attacks only five have been 
effective, and only on ships of no value. But every recon- 
naissance ordered, carries with it the risk of a disproportion- 
ate loss. And if an atmosphere of distrust and malice is cre- 
ated — as is deliberately and laboriously being done — an un- 
lucky incident might produce a most unpleasant state of feel- 
ing. . . . However, I am resolved not to be drawn by any 
impatience from those carefully considered plans of the naval 
war which I revealed to you in July, which are the result of 
three years' study, and with which Jellicoe is in the fullest 
accord. These plans will not produce any feat of eclat, but 

1 A curious coincidence or foreboding. Almost at that moment the 
Audacious was moving to her doom. 


they will keep England safe and prosperous, and enable her 
in good time to put in the field an army which will definitely 
and finally turn the scale. 

Kitchener is strangely alarmed about invasion, and on the 
C.I.D. we have witnessed an absolute reversal of roles — the 
W.O. 1 declaring the country not safe and an invasion of 
250,000 a possibility, and the Admiralty reassuring them, or 
trying to. You know how carefully I have examined that 
position, and how I have never minimised the risks. But 
now that we are face to face with realities, I am not alarmed, 
and my policy is that you should be reinforced by any ef- 
fective division that can be formed and maintained; and' that 
the Navy will prevent any invasion of a serious character. 
The Prime Minister is solid as a rock; but waves of nervous- 
ness pass over others, and may result in some retardation of 
your reinforcements. 

We are making extraordinary efforts to grapple with the 
submarine menace which tends to drive our great ships so 
far away, and during November we shall, I believe, have got 
the better of it, and have secured all our anchorages by net- 
work and other means. Then we shall be able to give a 
greater assurance to those who need it. 

But my dear friend, I do trust you realise how damnable 
it will be if the enemy settles down for the winter along lines 
which comprise Calais, Dunkirk or Ostend. There will be 
continual alarms and greatly added difficulties. We must 
have him off the Belgian Coast, even if we cannot recover 

I am getting old ships with the heaviest guns ready, pro- 
tected by barges with nets against submarines, so as to dis- 
pute the whole seaboard with him. On the 31st instant 
Revenge, four i3^-inch guns, will come into action if required, 
and I have a regular fleet of monitors and ' bomb-ketches ' 
now organised which they all say has hit the Germans hard, 
and is getting stronger every day. 

If you could again passage off to the left, I could give you 
overwhelming support from the sea, and there you will have 
a flank which certainly they cannot turn. 

You have on your front gained a fine success in hurling 
back the whole weight of the German right. All your mes- 

1 War Office. 


sages are so good — cool, resolute and informing. They will 
make a good page of military history. My heart is with you 
in the army. 

Sir John French to Mr. Churchill. 

October 28. 

'Your letters are always a great help and strength to me. 
Thank you indeed for the last one. I wish you would try and 
take a less gloomy view of what those people chatter about. 
What does it matter. . . .' I tried hard to retain a hold on 
the Belgians and with them to operate alone on the northern 
flank; but the French sent Foch and a Mission. As the Bel- 
gians were practically the guests of France, using their ter- 
ritory and Calais as a base, I had no alternative but to grace- 
fully 'submit.' 

I am, however, on the very best terms with Foch, who is 
doing splendid work. . . . 

He added — 

The fighting is still severe — I've been at two points of the 
line to-day — but it is certainly slackening. 

The Germans will never get further west. 

This is only a hurried line written in the watches of the 

No words written after the event can convey half so truth- 
ful or half so vivid an impression as these unstudied letters 
and brief operative telegrams flashing to and fro. Reading 
them again I feel once more the battle going on, the exhausted 
Belgians clinging desperately to the last few miles of soil left 
to their nation, their dauntless King and Queen amid the 
shells at Furnes; the French troops hastening up, but only in 
driblets; the heroic Fusiliers Marins holding Dixmude till 
not a fifth were left alive; our little ships barking away along 
the coast with the submarines stabbing at them from under- 
neath and heavier metal opening on them every day from the 
shore; inundations slowly growing, a shield of merciful water 
rising inch by inch, hour by hour, between the fainting Bel- 
gian line and the cruel monster who had come upon them; and 


all the time our own men fighting against appalling odds, ten 
days, twenty days, thirty days, from Ypres to Armentieres; 
nothing to send anyone, not a man, not a musket. Each night 
Colonel Bridges spoke to me on the telephone from the Bel- 
gian Head-quarters at Furnes. Each night we felt it might 
be the last time he would speak from that address. It was 
only very gradually towards the end of October that one 
began to feel that the French and Belgian troops were getting 
a firm grip of the line of the Yser, and that Sir John French 
could write, 'The Germans will never get further west.' But 
three more weeks of agony ensued before the decision at 
Ypres finally declared itself in favour of the British Army. 

We are, I feel, entitled to treat the Antwerp episode as an 
integral and vital part of this tremendous battle for the 
Channel Ports. If we had not made our belated effort to 
prolong its defence, the whole after course of events would 
have been different, and could hardly have been better. But 
for the time gained at Antwerp and the arrival in such a 
forward situation of the British and French forces assigned 
so hurriedly for its relief, the impulsion of the Allied Armies 
towards the sea — already less than was required — must have 
been sensibly weakened. The great collision and battle with 
the German right would have taken place all the same. Per- 
haps the same result would have been achieved. But where? 
Where would the line have been drawn when the armies set- 
tled down into trenches frcm which they were not appreciably 
displaced for more than four years? At the very best the 
water defences, Gravelines — St. Omer — Aire, would have been 
secured. Dunkirk and its fine harbour would have become 
another nest of submarines to prey on our communications in 
the Channel; and Calais would have been exposed to a con- 
stant bombardment. The complications of these evils — the 
least that could be expected — must have reacted formidably 


upon the whole subsequent fortunes of the Allied Armies in 

If this be true — and history must pronoun ce — the men 
who were responsible for the succour of Antwerp will have 
no reason to be ashamed of their effort. Hazard and uncer- 
tainty pervade all operations of war. It is idle to pretend 
that Lord Kitchener or anyone else foresaw all the conse- 
quences that flowed from the decisions of October 4. The 
event was very different from both hopes and expectations. 
But rarely in the Great War were more important results 
achieved by forces so limited and for losses so small, as those 
which rewarded this almost forlorn enterprise; nor is there in 
modern times, a more remarkable example of the flexibility, 
the celerity, and the baffling nature of that amphibious power 
which Britain alone wields, but which she has so often neg- 



October and November, 1914 

'Silence is the secret of war.' 


The Grand Fleet and the Submarine Alarm — The Harbour Peril — 
Anti-Submarine Defences — Unwarranted Reproaches — Corre- 
spondence with Sir John Jellicoe — Telegrams — Sir David Beatty's 
Letter of October 17 — Exertions of the Admiralty — Decisions of 
November 2 — The Loss of the Audacious — Suppression of the 
News — The Hard Days of October and November, 19 14 — Public 
and Political Unrest — 'What is the Navy doing?' — Retirement 
of Prince Louis of Battenberg — The Return of Lord Fisher — 
Fisher and Wilson — Rear-Admiral Oliver becomes Chief of the 
Staff— The New Admiralty War Group— The Perpetual Clock— 
The Port and Starboard Lights. 

A LL the anxieties recorded in the last chapter faded before 
■* *■ our preoccupations about the Fleet. Indeed, the alarums 
and excursions on the Belgian Coast were at times almost a 
relief compared to the stress of our prime responsibilities. 
Everything depended upon the Fleet, and during these same 
months of October and November the Fleet was disquieted 
about the very foundations of its being. There lay the mighty 
ships; every man, from stoker to Admiral, was ready to die 
at his duty at any moment; no personal or individual fear 
found foothold. Still, at the summit from which we watched, 
one could feel a new and heart-shaking sensation. The Grand 
Fleet was uneasy. She could not find a resting-place except 
at sea. Conceive it, the ne plus ultra, the one ultimate sanc- 
tion of our existence, the supreme engine which no one had 
dared to brave, whose authority encircled the globe — no 



longer sure of itself. The idea had got round — 'the German 
submarines were coming after them into the harbours.' 

On the South Coast no one would have minded. You could 
go inside the Portland breakwater and literally shut the door. 
On the East Coast no such absolutely sealed harbour existed. 
But Scapa was believed to be protected by its currents from 
submarine attack. Destroyers no doubt could attack it — if 
they cared to run the very serious risk of the long daylight 
passage, to and fro, across the North Sea: but no one, we had 
believed, could take a submarine submerged through the in- 
tricate and swirling channels. Now, all of a sudden, the 
Grand Fleet began to see submarines in Scapa Flow. Two or 
three times the alarm was raised. The climax came on Octo- 
ber 17. Guns were fired, destroyers thrashed the waters, and 
the whole gigantic Armada put to sea in haste and dudgeon. 

Of course there never was a German submarine in Scapa. 
None during the whole war achieved the terrors of the pas- 
sage. One was destroyed in the outer approaches towards 
the end of November in circumstances which remained a 
mystery to the enemy. At the very end of the war in Novem- 
ber, 1918, after the mutiny of the German fleet, a German 
submarine manned entirely by officers seeking to save their 
honour, perished in a final desperate effort. Thus none ever 
penetrated the lair of the Grand Fleet. But nevertheless the 
mere apprehension of submarines attacking the sleeping ships 
on which all else reposed, was sufficient in the winter of 19 14 
to destroy that sense of security which every Fleet demands 
when in its own war harbours. 

Up till the end of September, 1 914, no one seriously contem- 
plated hostile submarines in time of war entering the war 
harbours of either side and attacking the ships at anchor. To 
achieve this the submarine would have to face all the immense 
difficulties of making its way up an estuary or inlet amid shoal 
water and intricate navigation, submerged all the time and 
with only an occasional glimpse through the periscope; sec- 


ondly while doing this, to avoid all the patrolling craft which 
for many miles kept watch and ward on the approaches; 
thirdly, to brave the unknown and unknowable terrors of 
mines and obstructions of all sorts, with which it must be as- 
sumed the channels would become increasingly infested. It 
was thought that these deterrents would prove effectual. 
Looking back on the events in the light of after-knowledge, 
we can see now that this assumption was correct. There is 
no recorded instance of a German submarine having pene- 
trated into any British war harbour. The British submarine 
service was certainly not inferior in enterprise to the Germans, 
and from the very first hours of the War our boats were in 
the Heligoland Bight; but no British submarine officer at- 
tempted actually to penetrate a German war harbour or run 
actually into the mouths of the Elbe, the Jade, the Weser 
or the Ems. The nearest approaches to such an enterprise 
were the numerous passages of the Dardanelles made by the 
British submarines, beginning at the end of December with 
the heroic exploits of Commander Holbrook. For these feats 
the submarines were able to start only a few miles from the 
mouth of the Dardanelles and, diving along a very deep 
channel over two miles wide, succeeded again and again in 
entering the Sea of Marmora. This was not comparable to 
penetrating a British war harbour or river-mouth; and it 
did not occur until experience of the war capabilities of sub- 
marines had much increased. 

During August and September the Admiralty made most 
strenuous efforts to increase the protection of our bases in 
Scotland and upon the East Coast by mounting guns, by post- 
ing guardships, by placing obstructions, by preparing booms, 
by laying torpedo nets. But the danger against which these 
defences were designed in those months, was primarily not the 
submarine, but a regular attack by enemy destroyers on the 
fleet or squadrons at anchor, or, secondly, a raid by cruisers 
upon bases in the temporary absence of the fleet. It was 


not until the middle or end of September that increasing 
knowledge and evidences of the power of the largest sub- 
marines under war conditions, fostered the idea that the Ger- 
man submarines might actually enter our northern war 
harbours at the Forth, at Cromarty, and at Scapa Flow. 
Once this idea took root, it became a grave preoccupation. 
Precautions taken against a rush of torpedo boats, were clearly 
insufficient to stop a vessel which might dive under booms 
and past protecting guns. 

Reproach has been levelled at the Admiralty for not hav- 
ing accurately measured this danger before the war and taken 
proper precautions against it. It would have been very dif- 
ficult, even had the danger been foreseen, to find out under 
peace conditions what actually would or would not stop a 
submarine. No one in peace time could have ordered a sub- 
marine crew to run such awful risks. It would have been a 
matter of enormous expense to create a vast system of booms 
with deep nets and other obstructions for the defence of all 
our northern harbours. I should have had the very greatest 
difficulty in coming to the Cabinet and Parliament with such 
a demand during 1913 and 1914. Not only was every penny 
of naval expenditure challenged, but this particular expendi- 
ture would have been clearly of a most alarmist character, 
would have been taken to indicate the imminence of war, and 
would have been stigmatised as a provocation to the only 
Power to whom it could have relation. Still, if the Sea Lords 
and the Naval Staff had recommended solidly and as a matter 
of prime importance the provision of these great obstructive 
works in the Humber, at the Forth, at Cromarty, and at Scapa, 
it would have been my duty to go forward. But no such 
recommendation was made to me or pressed upon me by the 
naval experts in the years preceding the War, no doubt for 
the reasons which I have described, namely that they did not 
think the danger had yet assumed a sufficiently practical 
form to justify such extraordinary measures. It certainly 


does not lie with anyone who was a member of the then Board 
of Admiralty to level such reproaches. 

Sir John Jellicoe's book, although no doubt not intended 
for such a purpose, has been made a foundation for several 
reflections upon our pre-war arrangements in this respect. 
He recounts the dangers to which his Fleet was subjected; 
but had he, either as Controller or Second Sea Lord, foreseen 
these dangers, he would of course have warned his colleagues 
and his chief. It is clear therefore that if the Admiralty is to 
be criticised in this respect, it would be unfair to cite him as 
an authority. 

Moreover, this submarine danger was one which did not 
in fact materialise at the outbreak of war. Six months later 
the position was different. The enterprise and the skill of 
submarine commanders had greatly grown, and all sorts of 
possibilities never previously envisaged came successively into 
view. But by that time the submarines had to face a very 
different set of obstructions. By the time they were con- 
vinced of the possibility, the possibility had disappeared. 

It seemed real enough, however, in the month of October, 
1 914. The booms and obstructions which were everywhere 
being improvised were not complete or only partially in posi- 
tion, while the danger had begun to take full shape in the 
minds both of the Fleet and of the Admiralty. There was 
nothing to be done but to await the completion of the booms 
and obstructions, and meanwhile to keep the Fleet as far as 
possible out of harm's way. It really only felt safe when it 
was at sea. There, steaming in the broad waters, the Grand 
Fleet was herself again: but this involved a great strain on 
officers, men and machinery and a large consumption of fuel. 

On September 30 Sir John Jellicoe wrote to me on the gen- 
eral Fleet position. He pointed out that Germany had got a 
lead over us in oversea submarines, that we always expected 
that the preliminary stages of a modern naval war would be 
a battle of the small craft, and that the question of keeping 


heavy ships out of the North Sea altogether, until the small 
craft menace had been reduced, had been frequently dis- 
cussed. He thought it suicidal to forego our advantageous 
position in big ships by risking them in waters infested by 
submarines. He was of opinion that the submarine had a 
very limited sphere of action, could not hurt our oversea 
commerce (at that time this was true), nor could they help 
their own ships to get in. He proposed therefore to use the 
Battle Fleet far to the North, spread to intercept trade. We 
had not nearly sufficient cruisers to form the double line that 
was really necessary to stop all ships during the short days 
and long nights. It was perfectly easy, he said, to run through 
the line at night, as its approximate positions soon got known 
and could not be much varied. But with the Battle Fleet 
helping in waters free from the submarine danger, one could 
make much more certain. This, however, entailed giving up 
the idea of southerly Battle Fleet movements. He suggested 
that the French submarines as well as our own should be 
employed on the probable paths of the German submarines. 
He emphasised the importance of fitting a number of our 
trawlers with wireless installations. He desired me to show 
this letter to the First Sea Lord and to know whether we were 
in agreement with his views, whether steps would be taken 
to establish a trawler patrol, and whether the idea of utilis- 
ing the Grand Fleet effectively to shut up the Northern 
entrance to the North Sea was approved. He concluded by 
urging the hastening of the submarine defences for Scapa. 
In reply I wrote, on the day of my return from Antwerp : — 

October 8, 1914. 
I am in full agreement with your letter. No change in 
principle is required in the naval policy to which we have 
steadily adhered since 191 1. The main point is to secure the 
safety of the British Fleet during the long and indefinite period 
of waiting for a general action. The phase in which raids up 
to 10,000 or 20,000 men were dangerous or would have had 


an object has passed. A very considerable, though no doubt 
incomplete, watch over the Heligoland debouches is being 
maintained by our oversea submarines. It is not necessary, 
as manoeuvre experience had suggested, to traverse the waters 
of the North Sea with the Battle Fleet with any degree of 
frequency. Such movements should only be undertaken for 
some definite, grave and primary purpose. Occasional sweeps 
by cruisers in different directions, and avoiding anything like 
routine patrolling, are all that is necessary in present circum- 
stances. In order to secure the greatest amount of rest and 
security for the Fleet, and the maintenance of the highest 
efficiency both of the steaming and fighting of its ships, you 
are justified in using occasional anchorages even more remote 
than Scapa and Loch Ewe; but on this you should make pro- 
posals officially. You need not fear that by these withdrawals 
you will miss a chance of bringing the German Battle Fleet 
to action. If that ever comes out it will be with some definite 
tactical object — for instance, to cover the landing of an in- 
vading force, to break the line of blockade to the northward 
in order to let loose battle-cruisers on to the trade routes, or 
simply for the purpose of obtaining a naval decision by fight- 
ing a battle. In the first two of these cases you would have 
the time to come round and meet or intercept them before 
their operation was completed; in the third instance, their 
wishes would be the same as yours. 

The Committee of Imperial Defence have again considered 
the question of invasion in the light of the experience of the 
first two months of the war. The War Office have pointed 
out that although no troops can be spared by Germany in 
the present active state of the land war on all frontiers, it 
is possible that in the winter a deadlock may arise in both 
the Eastern and Western theatres, when the Germans might 
find it possible or useful to create a diversion by attempting 
to throw a regular invading army across the North Sea. In 
the Admiralty opinion the difficulties of such a task have been 
in no wise diminished by anything we have learnt since the 
war began. We think it is useless to discuss such matters in 
general terms, and we are sure that a detailed study of a con- 
crete plan of landing, say, 150,000 men will prove fatal to 
such ideas. In this connection it must be remembered that 
the war has shown the absolute reliance of the Germans upon 


their artillery, without which they would cease to be formi- 
dable. The landing of great quantities of artillery and the 
maintenance of an ammunition supply, are operations which, 
even if every other part of the enemy's plan had succeeded, 
could not be maintained without giving ample time for the 
intervention of your Fleet in decisive force. Further, if the 
Germans could spare 150,000 of their best troops for the in- 
vasion of England during a deadlock, a similar number would 
be released from our side, and it is obvious that even pushing 
this argument to its most extreme conclusion, we could trans- 
port our men back across the Channel with the command of 
the sea much more swiftly and surely than the Germans could 
bring theirs across the much wider distances of the North Sea 
in the face of a greatly superior naval force. All that would 
have resulted from the success of this most perilous operation 
on the part of Germany, would be to transfer the fighting of 
a certain number of Army Corps from the Continent to the 
British islands, under circumstances unfavourable in the ex- 
treme to the Germans, and favourable in every way to our 
troops; with the certainty that the Germans could not be 
reinforced, while we could be reinforced to almost any extent, 
and that unless the Germans were immediately successful 
before their ammunition was expended, the whole force to 
the last man must be killed or made prisoners of war. I there- 
fore see no reason why this contingency, any more than that 
of raids, should force the Battle Fleet to keep a station of 
danger during the winter months. The power of the superior 
Fleet is exerted with equal effect over the longer distances, 
and in fact pervades all the waters of the world. 

With regard to anchorages you have only to make your 
proposals and we will do our best to equip with anti-sub- 
marine nets, lights, and guns the places which you may wish 
to use. It is of importance that these should be varied, abso- 
lute safety lying much more in the uncertainty attending the 
movements of the Grand Fleet than in any passive or fixed 
defence of any particular place. We must not be led into 
frittering away resources by keeping half a dozen anchorages 
in a state of semi-defence, and so far as possible we must or- 
ganise a movable defence of guardships, trawlers, patrolling 
yachts, minesweepers, destroyers with towing charges, and 
seaplanes, which can move while the Fleet is at sea and pre- 
pare the new resting-place for its reception. 


The employment of a portion or occasionally of the whole 
of the Battle Fleet, to supplement the Northern Blockade 
from time to time is a matter on which you must be the judge. 
A large part of your time must necessarily be spent cruising 
at sea, and this being so the cruising should be made as use- 
ful as possible. Here, again, anything in the nature of routine 
or regular stations would be dangerous, and would, after a 
while, draw upon you, even in remote northern waters, the 
danger of submarine attack. 

The enemy in my judgment pursues a wise policy in de- 
clining battle. By remaining in harbour he secures for Ger- 
many the command of the Baltic, with all that that implies, 
both in threatening the Russian flank and protecting the Ger- 
man Coast, and in drawing supplies from Sweden and Nor- 
way. This is an immense advantage to the Germans, and is 
the best use to which in present circumstances they can turn 
their Fleet. It is to secure the eventual command of the Bal- 
tic that British naval operations must tend. I have already 
pointed out, in the papers which I showed you, the three al- 
ternative conditions 1 [the defeat of the German Fleet: the 
breaking of the Kiel Canal: or the effective blocking in of 
the Heligoland Bight] under which this would be possible, 
and I hope that proceeding on the assumption that one of 
these conditions exist you will make a study of the actual 
method by which the entrance to the Baltic could be effected 
when the time arrives. 

These general conclusions governed our policy during the 
next few months. But as October wore on our anxieties were 
steadily aggravated. The tension grew. Telegrams and let- 
ters tell their own tale. 

October 15. 
First Lord to Sir John Jellicoe. 

Personal. You are invited to give your opinion secretly 
on every aspect of the Naval situation at home and abroad 
and we welcome warmly any scheme you may put forward. 

Your proposals about mining are being attentively con- 

1 This will be discussed in the second volume. The alternatives are 
here only mentioned to explain the context. 


The general aspect of the war is grim. 

The Russian pressure is not what we expected, and an- 
other avalanche of [German] reinforcements is approaching 
the western theatre. 

On October 17 Sir John Jellicoe telegraphed that a Ger- 
man submarine had been reported entering Scapa at 5 p.m. 
the previous day. Although he thought the report false, he 
took the whole Fleet to sea forthwith. He appealed urgently 
for submarine obstructions as he had 'no safe base at pres- 
ent, and the only way to coal ships is to shift the coaling an- 
chorages constantly which seriously dislocates the organisa- 
tion of supply.' On the 18th he stated that Scapa Flow 
could not be used till the Submarine Defence was placed. 
On the 19th he asked the Admiralty whether he should risk 
the submarine menace at Scapa Flow or move the Fleet to 
remote bases on the west coast of Scotland or Ireland 'more 
than 300 miles from the Pentland Firth.' He added, 'It 
cannot be stated with absolute certainty that submarines 
were inside Scapa Flow, although Captain D, 4th Destroyer 
Flotilla, is positive H.M.S. Swift was fired at inside. I am 
of opinion that it is not difficult to get inside at slack water.' 

Another very serious warning reached me almost simultane- 
ously: — 

Sir David Beatty to First Lord. 

H.M.S. Lion, 
(Private.) October 17, 1914. 

I take the opportunity of an officer going to London in 
charge of signal books, to write you of what goes on. I 
have written you before, or rather to Hood for you. I think 
it is right that you should know how things generally affect 
the Fleet. I trust that you will take this as it is written, in 
fact I know you will, as being written with only one idea of 
service to the country. I write as I do because I know that 
the plain truth at times such as these is the only thing worth 
hearing, and because you are the one and only man who can 


save the situation. Even at such times, official documents, 
requisitions and demands, are of little value; they are met at 
once I admit, but without understanding the time value of all 
that lies behind them. 

At present we feel that we are working up for a catastrophe 
of a very large character. The feeling is gradually possessing 
the Fleet that all is not right somewhere. The menace of 
mines and submarines is proving larger every day, and ade- 
quate means to meet or combat them are not forthcoming, 
and we are gradually being pushed out of the North Sea, and 
off our own particular perch. How does this arise ? By the 
very apparent fact that we have no Base where we can with 
any degree of safety lie for coaling, replenishing, and refitting 
and repairing, after two and a half months of war. This 
spells trouble. It is a perfectly simple and easy matter to 
equip Scapa Flow, Cromarty, and Rosyth, so that vessels 
can lie there undisturbed to do all they want, and for as long 
as they want, provided material and men are forthcoming. 
The one place that has put up any kind of defence against 
the submarine is Cromarty, and that is because at Cromarty 
there happens to be a man who grapples with things as they 
are, i.e., Commander Munro, 1 and because they have trained 
artillerymen to man their guns. That was one of the best 
day's work you ever did when you insisted on taking the de- 
fences there in hand. At Rosyth it appeared to me in Sep- 
tember when there, that to deny access to submarines and 
destroyers was a fairly simple task; it was an awkward place 
to get into, but when once in, it ought to be, and could be, 
very easily made a safe asylum for vessels in need of rest, re- 
pair, fuel, etc. At Scapa, something has been done towards 
blocking the many entrances, but that is all. I am sure that 
all the brain and intellect at the Admiralty could devise a 
scheme or method of defence which would make the anchor- 
age practically safe, and which could be done in a fortnight. 
No seaman can dispute that these three bases could have been 
made absolutely safe from submarine attack during the two 
and a half months that the war has been in progress. As it is, 

1 This energetic and practical officer, whom I had employed during 
the previous eighteen months to supervise the fortification of Cromarty, 
had already designed a type of anti-submarine boom which he was 
actually installing at Cromarty. 


we have been lulled into a sense of false security, because we 
have not been attacked before; but I can assure you that it 
has literally been recognised by all that it was only a question 
of time when we should have this sense rudely shattered. . . . 

The situation as it is, we have no place to lay our heads. 
We are at Loch Na Keal, Isle of Mull. My picket boats are 
at the entrance, the nets are out and the men are at the guns, 
waiting for coal which has run low, but ready to move at a 
moment's notice. Other squadrons are in the same plight. 
We have been running now hard since 28th July; small de- 
fects are creeping up which we haven't time to take in hand. 
Forty-eight hours is our spell in harbour with steam ready to 
move at four hours' notice, coaling on an average 1,400 tons 
a time; night defence stations. The men can stand it, but 
the machine can't, and we must have a place where we can 
stop for from four or five days every now and then to give the 
engineers a chance. Such a place does not exist, so the 
question arises, how long can we go on, for I fear very much, 
not for long, as the need for small repairs is becoming insistent. 

The remedy is to fix upon a base and make it impervious 
to submarine attack; as I have pointed out I am firmly con- 
vinced this can be done. . . . 

You might be told that this idea of making the entrances 
secure is chimerical. This is not so; and I will guarantee 
that if the Fleet was instructed to defend the entrances to 
the ports named, and was provided with the material, they 
could and would devise not one but several methods which 
would satisfy most requirements, and which would keep out 
submarines. If the Fleet cannot spare the time and labour, 
turn it over to Commander Munro and give him a free hand 
and what labour he requires, and he will do it in a fortnight. 

I think you know me well enough to know that I do not 
shout without cause. The Fleet's tail is still well over the 
back. We hate running away from our base and the effect 
is appreciable. We are not enjoying ourselves. But the 
morale is high and confidence higher. I would not write thus 
if I did not know that you with your quick grasp of detail and 
imagination would make something out of it. 

Meanwhile, however, the Admiralty, particularly the First 
and Fourth Sea Lords, had been labouring since the end of 


September to devise and make the necessary protective struc- 
tures. By dint of extraordinary exertions the first instalment 
of these was already approaching completion, and on October 
20 Prince Louis was in a position to telegraph to the Com- 
mander-in-Chief : — 

The defences for Scapa will leave Dockyards on 24th Oc- 

In the meantime Admiralty approve Battle Squadrons 
remaining on the West Coast and if you prefer they can pro- 
ceed as far as Berehaven. 

In order to prevent being dogged by submarines a false 
course should be steered until a sufficient offing is made. 

Battle- Cruisers and Cruisers will have to remain north to 
cover exits from North Sea. Cromarty appears to be a safe 
base for some of them. 

October 23, 2 a.m. 

Admiralty to Sir John Jellicoe. 

From First Lord. 

Private and Personal. Every effort will be made to secure 
you rest and safety in Scapa and adjacent anchorages. Net 
defence hastened utmost, will be strengthened by successive 
lines earliest. If you desire, Cabinet will I think agree de- 
clare area 30 miles east Kinnaird Head to 30 miles north Shet- 
lands and down to 30 miles South of Hebrides prohibited to 
all ships not specially licensed by Admiralty or you. 

All vessels whatever Flag should be dealt with in this area 
as you desire. 

I wish to make absolute sanctuary for you there. I also 
propose proclaiming all Scotland north of Caledonian Canal 
including all Islands and Inverness prohibited area; you can 
do what you think necessary for safety of Fleet. 

Use your powers under Defence of Realm Act and ask for 
anything you want in men, money or material. You must 
have a safe resting place: tell me how I can help you. 

Sir John Jellicoe replied with suggestions for closing 
certain areas, and for the placing of obstructions and contact 


Secretary. ^ , , 

First Sea Lord. October H , i gH . 

Third Sea Lord. 

Fourth Sea Lord. 

Naval Secretary. 

Every nerve must be strained to reconcile the Fleet to 

Scapa. Successive lines of submarine defences should be 

prepared, reinforced by Electric Contact mines as proposed 

by the Commander-in-Chief. Nothing should stand in the 

way of the equipment of this anchorage with every possible 

means of security. The First Lord and the First Sea Lord 

will receive a report of progress every third day until the work 

is completed and the Commander-in-Chief satisfied. 

W. S. c. 

On receipt of Sir John Jellicoe's memorandum I convened 
all the authorities and after prolonged discussion issued the 
following directions, which since they show the variety of 
problems affecting the Grand Fleet at this juncture may be 
printed in extenso for those interested in details: — 

Decisions of November 2, 1914. 1 
Secretary and all concerned. 

1. The Fourth Sea Lord will give directions for 48 trawlers 
armed with guns, and 3 yachts fitted with guns and wireless, 
to be collected from the various trawler patrols and placed 
at the disposal of the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet. 
These trawlers, etc., are to be at Scapa Flow, reporting to Ad- 
miral Colville there, by the 5th November. 

2. Third Sea Lord will report what rafts and barges there 
are which could be fitted with torpedo nets to afford protec- 
tion to ships from submarine attack, and when they can be 

3. Chief of the Staff will direct the Admiral of Patrols to 
provide 12 additional destroyers from the patrol flotillas to 
repair at once to Scapa Flow and join the Flag of the Com- 

4. Twelve armed merchant cruisers of small size have been 
ordered to strengthen the Northern patrol. It is necessary 
that these should join the Grand Fleet within a week, and 

1 1 have slightly abridged this minute. 


any circumstances likely to cause delay must be immediately 
brought to notice of First Sea Lord. 

5. The Naval Secretary and the Secretary have informed 
the Commander-in-Chief of his powers under the Defence of 
the Realm Act, when the area to the north of the Caledonian 
Canal, including all islands and the town of Inverness, has 
been proclaimed a prohibited area within the meaning of the 
Act. The Secretary will draft a letter forthwith to the War 
Office, asking for the proclamation as from the 3rd Novem- 
ber, of the whole of this area. 

6. The warning as to the closing of the North Sea, issued 
to-night by the Admiralty, is to be studied by departments 
concerned. The Additional Civil Lord should deal with ques- 
tions arising out of it affecting trade and fishery interests in 
this country. Captain Webb should consider its working 
from the point of view of commerce; he will also consider 
what additional measures must be taken to increase the 
Examination Service on account of the increased traffic in 
the Channel which will result from the warning, consulting 
Chief of the Staff as may be necessary for military security. 
The Additional Civil Lord should also deal with the subject 
from the point of view of existing arrangements as to contra- 

7. The War Office should be asked immediately to develop 
for the Navy a system of lookouts on commanding points 
around the coast in the prohibited area in the North of Scot- 
land and on the islands, connected as far as possible by tele- 
phone, in order that the movements of suspicious vessels, and 
also intelligence collected from the land, may be constantly 
reported. Admiral Coast Guards and Reserves will co- 

8. The censorship of postal and telegraph offices in the 
prohibited area, and the exclusion of all alien-born postal 
servants, and the services of a sufficient detective force at 
points used by the Fleet, must be undertaken forthwith. 
Secretary will propose the necessary measures in consultation 
with the War and Home Offices. 

10. Fourth Sea Lord and Naval Secretary will take the 
necessary steps to provide, with the minimum delay, heavy 
booms for Scapa and Loch Ewe, as asked for by the Com- 


ii. The Assistant Director of Torpedoes will arrange to 
send lines of Electric Contact mines during the next 10 days 
to Scapa Flow, to be disposed of under the orders of the Com- 
mander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet. 

12. A bi-weekly report is to be made to the First Lord and 
First Sea Lord of the actual progress to date of all works now 
under construction for the protection of harbours against sub- 
marine and torpedo attack, and all unexpected circumstances 
which tend to delay the work are to be reported as they occur. 

13. The Chief of the Staff will report on the general ques- 
tion of adding to the number of mines in our minefield. 

14. A second light cruiser squadron for the patrol of the 
North Sea is approved. It will be formed by dividing the 
existing light cruiser squadron and adding Sapphire and 
Blanche from the 3rd Battle Squadron. The Chief of the 
Staff to make detailed proposals. Naval Secretary to pro- 
pose a Commodore". 

15. Eight light-draught, seaworthy vessels for fleet sweepers 
have been taken up and should be completed with all speed. 

16. The Director of the Air Division should, in consultation 
with the Commander-in-Chief, establish an additional tem- 
porary seaplane station at some convenient point on the 
Scottish coast facing the Hebrides, for the better patrol and 
reconnaissance of that area. 

17. A general order should be issued to the Fleet that no 
cruiser or larger vessel is to stop for the purpose of boarding 
or challenging any merchant ship. This work is to be in- 
variably performed by auxiliary merchant cruisers, torpedo 
craft, and trawlers. Cruisers and larger vessels, wishing to 
turn back merchant ships, should fire a shot across their bows 
and make signals. 

18. The Chief of the Staff should draft the necessary or- 
der to the patrolling lines of cruisers to turn back merchant 
ships, from the 5th November onwards, from the danger 
area. The orders should be submitted before being sent. 

19. The reconstitution of the battle-cruisers into two 
squadrons: — 

(1) Tiger, Princess Royal, Lion; 

(2) New Zealand, Inflexible, Invincible; is authorised. 

22. Sir John Jellicoe's proposal in regard to the entry of 
defended ports and the unsuitability of the proposed arrange- 


ments are to be reported on by the War Staff, and submitted 
to the Board for adoption. 

24. Third Sea Lord and Fourth Sea Lord should report 
whether it is possible to postpone the lining of destroyers 
during the next two months, as Commander-in-Chief states 
that they cannot be spared from duty. 

25. The Assistant Director of Torpedoes will report upon 
the need of establishing W.T. stations at St. Kilda and the 
other places in question. Only small installations are re- 

26. The docking of ships at Home ports and partial refit, 
one at a time, may be permitted, beginning from the end of 
this month. 

27. A report should be furnished on the state of the 3rd 
Battle Squadron repair ship. 

28. Steps are to be taken to increase the pumping power 
of the Orion class and later types by adding a bilge suction 
to the main circulating pumps. A report should be furnished 
by Third Sea Lord as to what this involves in time and money. 

w. s. c. 

The Commander-in-Chief, in accordance with the Admiralty 
authorisation, withdrew at the end of October to the north 
coast of Ireland for a few days' rest and gunnery practice. 
By extraordinary ill-luck, the arrival of the Fleet off Loch 
Swilly coincided with the visit of a German minelayer to 
those waters. The minelayer had no idea of catching the 
Fleet or that British warships would be in those waters. Her 
objective was the Liverpool trade route, but the shot aimed 
at a crow brought down an eagle. 

On October 27th Prince Louis hurried into my room with 
the grave news that the Audacious had been struck by mine 
or torpedo North of Loch Swilly, and that it was feared she 
was sinking. In the afternoon the Commander-in-Chief tele- 
graphed urging that every endeavour should be made to keep 
the event from being published; and that night, in reporting 
that the Audacious had sunk, he repeated his hope that the 
loss could be kept secret. I saw great difficulties in this but 


promised to bring the matter before the Cabinet. Meanwhile 
I telegraphed to the Commander-in-Chief, October 28th, 12.30 
a.m. : — 

'I am sure you will not be at all discouraged by Audacious 
episode. We have been very fortunate to come through three 
months of war without the loss of a capital ship. I expected 
three or four by this time, and it is due to your unfailing vigi- 
lance and skill that all has gone so well. The Army too has 
held it own along the whole line, though with at least 14,000 
killed and wounded. Quite soon the harbours will be made 
comfortable for you. Mind you ask for all you want.' 

Measured by military standards, the Audacious was the 
first serious loss we had sustained. She was one of those vital 
units in which we never were at that time more than six or 
seven to the good, and upon which all strategic calculations 
were based both by friend and foe. When I brought the ques- 
tion of keeping her loss secret before the Cabinet, there was 
a considerable division of opinion. It was urged that public 
confidence would be destroyed if it were thought that we 
were concealing losses, that it was bound to leak out almost 
immediately, and that the Germans probably knew already. 
To this I replied that there was no reason why the Germans 
should not be left to collect their own information for them- 
selves, that the moment they knew the Audacious was sunk 
they would proclaim it, and that then we could quite easily 
explain to the public why it was we had preserved secrecy. 
I cited the effective concealment by Japan of the loss of the 
battleship Yashima off Port Arthur in 1904. If Sir John 
French had lost an Army Corps, every effort would be made 
to conceal it from the enemy. Why then should the Navy 
be denied a similar freedom? Lord Kitchener strongly sup- 
ported me; and our views were eventually accepted by the 

The Press were asked by the Admiralty to abstain from 


making any reference to the event. Some newspapers com- 
plied with an ill grace. It was represented that hundreds of 
people knew already, including all the passengers of the liner 
Olympic which had passed the sinking vessel; that German spies 
in England would certainly convey the news to Germany in a 
few days, and that, anyhow, long accounts of the sinking with 
actual photographs, would be despatched by the next mail to 
the United States, whence the news would be immediately tele- 
graphed to Germany. We, however, remained obdurate, 
watching the German Press very carefully for the slightest 
indication that they knew. Meanwhile it was thought clever 
by certain newspapers to write articles and paragraphs in 
which the word ' audacious' was frequently introduced, 
while I was much blamed. I found it necessary to issue 
a secret appeal, which, aided by the loyal efforts of the News- 
paper Press committee, certainly had some effect. In the up- 
shot it took more than five weeks before the German Ad- 
miralty learned that the Audacious had been sunk, and even 
then they were by no means convinced that they were not 
the victims of rumour. 
Says Admiral Scheer: — 

'The English succeeded in keeping secret for a consider- 
able time the loss of this great battleship, a loss which was 
a substantial success for our efforts at equalisation. . . . 
The behaviour of the English was inspired at all points by 
consideration for what would serve their military purpose. 
... In the case of the Audacious we can but approve the 
English attitude of not revealing a weakness to the enemy, 
because accurate information about the other side's strength 
has a decisive effect on the decisions taken.' 

I do not remember any period when the weight of the War 
seemed to press more heavily on me than these months of 
October and November, 1914. In August one was expecting 


the great sea battle and the first great battles on land; but 
our course was obvious, and, when taken, we had only to 
wait for decisions. All September was dominated by the 
victory of the Marne. But in October and November the 
beast was at us again. The sense of grappling with and being 
overpowered by a monster of appalling and apparently inex- 
haustible strength on land, and a whole array of constant, 
gnawing anxieties about the safety of the Fleet from sub- 
marine attack at sea and in its harbours, oppressed my mind. 
Not an hour passed without the possibility of some disaster 
or other in some part of the world. Not a day without the 
necessity of running risks. 

My own position was already to some extent impaired. 
The loss of the three cruisers had been freely attributed to 
my personal interference. I was accused of having overridden 
the advice of the Sea Lords and of having wantonly sent the 
squadron to its doom. Antwerp became a cause of fierce re- 
proach. One might almost have thought I had brought about 
the fall of the city by my meddling. The employment of such 
untrained men as the Naval Brigades was generally censured. 
The internment in Holland of three of their battalions was 
spoken of as a great disaster entirely due to my inexcusable 
folly. One unhappy phrase — true enough in thought — about 
' Digging rats out of holes,' which had slipped from my tongue 
in a weary speech at Liverpool, was fastened upon and pil- 
loried. These were the only subjects with which my name was 
connected in the newspapers. My work at the Admiralty — 
such as it was — was hidden from the public. No Parliamen- 
tary attack gave me an opportunity of defending myself. In 
spite of being accustomed to years of abuse, I could not but 
feel the adverse and hostile currents that flowed about me. 
One began to perceive that they might easily lead to a prac- 
tical result. Luckily there was not much time for such reflec- 

The Admiralty had entered upon the War with command- 


ing claims on public confidence. The coincidence of the test 
mobilisation with the European crisis, was generally attributed 
to profound design. The falsification one after another of 
the gloomy predictions that we should be taken unawares, 
that the German commerce destroyers would scour the seas, 
and that our own shipping, trade and food would be endan- 
gered, was recognised with widespread relief. The safe trans- 
portation of the Army to France and the successful action in 
the Heligoland Bight were acclaimed as fine achievements. 
But with the first few incidents of misfortune a different note 
prevailed in circles which were vocal. The loss of the three 
cruisers marked a turning-point in the attitude of those who 
in the evil times of war are able to monopolise the expression 
of public opinion. As the expectation of an imminent great 
sea battle faded, the complaint began to be heard, 'What is 
the Navy doing ? ' It was perhaps inevitable that there should 
be a sense of disappointment as week succeeded week and 
the tremendous engine of British naval power seemed to be 
neither seen nor heard. There was a general opinion that we 
should have begun by attacking and destroying the German 
Fleet. Vain to point to the ceaseless stream of troops and 
supplies to France, or to the world-wide trade of Britain pro- 
ceeding almost without hindrance. Impossible, in the hear- 
ing of the enemy, to explain the intricate movement of rein- 
forcements or expeditions escorted across every ocean from 
every part of the Empire, or to unfold the reasons which ren- 
dered it impossible to bring the German Fleet to battle. There, 
was our little Army fighting for its life, and playing to British 
eyes almost as large a part as that of France; and meanwhile 
our great Navy — the strongest in the world — lay apparently 
in an inertia diversified only by occasional mishap. 

Eaten bread is soon forgotten. Dangers which are warded 
off by effective precautions and foresight are never even re- 
membered. Thus it happened that the Admiralty was incon-v^ 
siderately judged in this opening phase. To me, who saw the 


perils against which we had prepared and over which we had 
triumphed, and who felt a sense of profound thankfulness for 
the past and absolute confidence for the future, these mani- 
festations of discontent seemed due only to lack of under- 
standing and to impatience pardonable in the general stress of 
the times. But they were none the less disquieting. Nor was 
it easy to deal with them. The questions could not be argued 
out in public or in Parliament. No formal indictment was ever 
preferred; nor could one have been fully answered without in- 
jury to national interests. We had to endure all this carping in 
silence. A certain proportion of losses at sea was inevitable 
month by month; and in each case it was easy to assert that 
some one had blundered. In most cases, indeed, this was 
true. With a thousand ships upon the sea and a thousand 
hazards, real or potential, every day to menace them, acci- 
dents and mistakes were bound to happen. How many were 
made, for which no forfeit was claimed by Fortune ! There 
was never an hour when risks against which no provision 
could be made were not being run by scores of vessels, or 
when problems of novelty and difficulty were not being set to 
sea captains, scarcely any of whom had ever been tried in war. 
Was it wonderful that we fell occasionally into error, or even 
into loss? 'Another naval disaster. Five hundred men 
drowned. What are the Admiralty doing?' While all the 
time the armies reeled about in the confusion of the mighty 
battles, and scores of thousands were sent, often needlessly 
or mistakenly, to their deaths: while all the time every 
British operation of war and trade on the seas proceeded 
without appreciable hindrance. 

This censorious mood produced a serious development in 
the case of Prince Louis. In the first flush of our successful 
mobilisation and entry upon the War, no comment had been 
made upon his parentage. But now the gossip of the clubs 
and of the streets began to produce a stream of letters, signed 
and anonymous, protesting in every variety of method and 


often in violent terms against one of Teutonic birth filling 
the vital position of First Sea Lord. This was cruel; but it 
was not unnatural, and I saw with anxiety and distress the 
growth of very widespread misgiving. I gathered also from 
occasional remarks which he made that this atmosphere was 
becoming apparent to the First Sea Lord. He was thus com- 
ing to be placed in the invidious position of having to take 
great responsibilities and risks day by day without that sup- 
port in public confidence to which he was absolutely entitled, 
and with the certainty that accidents would occur from time 
to time. I was therefore not surprised when, towards the 
end of October, Prince Louis asked to be relieved of his bur- 
den. The uncomplaining dignity with which he made this 
sacrifice and accepted self-effacement as a requital for the 
great and faithful service he had rendered to the British na- 
tion and to the Royal Navy was worthy of a sailor and a Prince. 
The correspondence which passed between us has already 
been made public, but is here inserted for completeness. 1 
I had now to look for a successor, and my mind had already 
turned in one direction and in one direction alone. 

1 Dear Mr. Churchill, — ' 

I have lately been driven to the painful conclusion that at this 
juncture my birth and parentage have the effect of impairing in some 
respects my usefulness on the Board of Admiralty. In these circum- 
stances I feel it to be my duty, as a loyal subject of His Majesty, to 
resign the office of First Sea Lord, hoping thereby to facilitate the task 
of the administration of the great Service, to which I have devoted 
my life, and to ease the burden laid on H.M. Ministers. 

I am, 
Yours very truly, 

Louis Battenberg, 


My dear Prince Louis- 0dober 2 ?> I 9 I 4- 

This is no ordinary war, but a struggle between nations for life or 
death. It raises passions between races of the most terrible kind. It 
effaces the old landmarks and frontiers of our civilisation. I cannot 
further oppose the wish, you have during the last few weeks expressed 


Lord Fisher used to come occasionally to the Admiralty, 
and I watched him narrowly to judge his physical strength 
and mental alertness. There seemed no doubt about either. 
On one occasion, when inveighing against some one whom he 
thought obstructive, he became so convulsed with fury that 
it seemed that every nerve and bloodvessel in his body would 
be ruptured. u However, they stood the strain magnificently, 
and he left me with the impression of a terrific engine of 
mental and physical power burning and throbbing in that 
aged frame. I was never in the least afraid of working with 
him, and I thought I knew him so well, and had held an 
equal relationship and superior constitutional authority so 
long, that we could come through any difficulty together. I 
therefore sounded him in conversation without committing 
myself, and soon saw that he was fiercely eager to lay his 

to me, to be released from the burden of responsibility which you have 
borne thus far with so much honour and success. 

The anxieties and toils which rest upon the naval administration 
of our country are in themselves enough to try a man's spirit; and 
when to them are added the ineradicable difficulties of which you 
speak, I could not at this juncture in fairness ask you to support them. 

The Navy of to-day, and still more the Navy of to-morrow, bears 
the imprint of your work. The enormous impending influx of capital 
ships, the score of thirty-knot cruisers, the destroyers and submarines 
unequalled in modern construction which are coming now to hand, 
are the results of labours which we have had in common, and in which 
the Board of Admiralty owes so much to your aid. 

The first step which secured the timely concentration of the Fleet 
was taken by you. 

I must express publicly my deep indebtedness to you, and the pain 
I feel at the severance of our three years' official association. In all 
the circumstances you are right in your decision. The spirit in which 
you have acted is the same in which Prince Maurice of Battenberg 
has given his life to our cause and in which your gallant son is now 
serving in the Fleet. 

I beg you to accept my profound respect and that of our colleagues 
on the Board. j remain 

Yours very sincerely, 

Winston S. Churchill. 


grasp on power, and was strongly inspired with the sense of a 
message to deliver and a mission to perform. I therefore de- 
termined to act without delay. I sought the Prime Minister 
and submitted to him the arguments which led me to the con- 
clusion that Fisher should return, and that I could work with 
no one else. I also spoke of Sir Arthur Wilson as his principal 
coadjutor. I was well aware that there would be strong, 
natural and legitimate, opposition in many quarters to Fisher's 
appointment, but having formed my own conviction I was 
determined not to remain at the Admiralty unless I could do 
justice to it. So : n the end, for good or for ill, I had my way. 

October 30. 
First Lord to Sir John Jellicoe. 

Prince Louis has resigned on grounds of parentage, to my 
deep regret. The King has approved Lord Fisher as First 
Sea Lord. He will assume office to-morrow afternoon. I 
expect Sir Arthur Wilson will be associated with Admiralty 
for special duties. Loss of Audacious has nothing to do with 
these events. There will be no change in Naval War policy 
as set out in your war orders. Please telegraph whether you 
think Grand Fleet could prudently take four or five days' 
rest in Portland Harbour. 

October 30. 
Sir John Jellicoe to First Lord. 

Secret and personal. 

I have made present base secure against submarine attack 
and think it better to remain here than to go to Portland. 

I propose to send out our squadrons one at a time next 
week to fire at rocks off coast of Ireland, as target practice 
is very necessary and towing targets is difficult in present 
weather and possibly unsafe. 

The decision to recall Lord Fisher to the Admiralty was 
very important. He was, as has been here contended, the 
most distinguished British Naval officer since Nelson. The 
originality of his mind and the spontaneity of his nature 
freed him from conventionalities of all kinds. His genius was 


deep and true. Above all, he was in harmony with the vast 
size of events. Like them, he was built upon a titanic scale. 

But he was seventy-four years of age. As in a great castle 
which has long contended with time, the mighty central mass 
of the Donjon towered up intact and seemingly everlasting. 
But the outworks and the battlements had fallen away, and 
its imperious ruler dwelt only in the special apartments and 
corridors with which he had a lifelong familiarity. Had he 
and his comrade, Sir Arthur Wilson, been born ten years later, 
the British naval direction at the outbreak of the Great War 
would have reached its highest state of perfection, both at 
the Admiralty and afloat. The new figures which the struggle 
was producing — Beatty, Keyes, Tyrwhitt — had not yet at- 
tained the authority which would have made them acceptable 
to the Navy in the highest situations. Fisher and Wilson 
had outlived their contemporaries and towered above the 
naval generation which had followed them. It was to these 
two great old men and weather-beaten sea-dogs, who for more 
than half a century had braved the battle and the breeze, 
and were Captains afloat when I was in my cradle, that the 
professional conduct of the naval war was now to be con- 

It was clear, however, to me, who knew both these Ad- 
mirals-of-the-Fleet quite well and had had many opportuni- 
ties in the previous three years of hearing and reading their 
views, that the day-to-day organisation of our Staff machinery 
would have to be altered. This necessitated a change in the 
Chief of the War Staff. In Admiral Sturdee the Navy had 
a sea officer of keen intelligence and great practical ability — 
a man who could handle and fight his ship or his squadron 
with the utmost skill and resolution. But he was not a man 
with whom Lord Fisher could have worked satisfactorily at 
the supreme executive centre. Happily, there was no difficulty 
in agreeing upon his successor. 

Since Antwerp, Admiral Oliver had been my Naval Secre- 


tary. During the year before the War he had been Director 
of Naval Intelligence. In this capacity I had had to rely 
continually upon him, as upon Captain Thomas Jackson 
before him, for all the facts and figures upon which the con- 
troversy about British and German naval strength depended. 
His accuracy in detail and power of continuous and tenacious 
mental toil were extraordinary. He combined with capacious 
knowledge an unusual precision of mind and clarity of state- 
ment. His credentials as a sea officer were unimpeachable. 
He had been Navigating Commander to Sir Arthur Wilson, 
and every one in the Navy knew the story of how in the 1901 
Naval manoeuvres these two had taken the Channel Fleet 
from off Rathlin's Island at the North of Ireland through the 
Irish Channel to the Scillies in thick mist without sighting 
land or lights, and without being inclined to make a single 
remark to each other. On the third day the mist lifting sud- 
denly revealed the Scilly Islands to the astonished Fleet, 
which had already dropped anchor in the roads. 

I was very glad when Lord Fisher proposed to me that he 
should be made Chief of the Staff, and when he offered also 
to give me in exchange, for my Private Office, his own per- 
sonal assistant, Commodore de Bartolome. Everything thus 
started fair. We reformed the War Group, which met at 
least once each day, as follows: First Lord, First Sea Lord, 
Sir Arthur Wilson, Admiral Oliver and Commodore de Bar- 
tolome (the last named representing the younger school of sea 
officers), together with the invaluable Secretary, Sir Graham 
Greene. Sir Henry Jackson was also frequently summoned, 
but not so continuously as to impose an accountable respon- 
sibility upon him. 

Lord Fisher's age and the great strain to which he was now 
to be subjected made it necessary for him to lead a very care- 
ful life. He usually retired to rest shortly after 8 o'clock, 
awaking refreshed between four and five, or even earlier. In 
these morning hours he gave his greatest effort, transacting 


an immense quantity of business, writing innumerable letters 
and forming his resolutions for the day. Indeed, his methods 
corresponded closely to the maxims of the poet Blake: 
' Think in the morning; act in the noon; eat in the evening; 
sleep in the night.' But I never heard him use this quota- 
tion. As the afternoon approached the formidable energy 
of the morning gradually declined, and with the shades of 
night the old Admiral's giant strength was often visibly ex- 
hausted. Still, judged from the point of view of physical 
and mental vigour alone, it was a wonderful effort, and one 
which filled me, who watched him so closely, with admira- 
tion and, I will add, reassurance. 

I altered my routine somewhat to fit in with that of the 
First Sea Lord. I slept usually an hour later in the morning, 
being called at eight instead of seven, and I slept again, if 
possible, for an hour after luncheon. This enabled me to work 
continuously till one or two in the morning without feeling 
in any way fatigued. We thus constituted an almost un- 
sleeping- watch throughout the day and night. In fact, as 
Fisher put it, 'very nearly a perpetual clock.' Telegrams 
came in at the Admiralty at all hours of the day and night, 
and there was scarcely an hour when an immediate decision 
could not be given, if necessary, by one or the other of us 
always awake. 

This arrangement was also convenient from the point of 
view of business. The First Lord completed everything with 
which he was concerned before going to bed, and three hours 
later the First Sea Lord addressed himself to the whole .budget, 
and I, awaking at eight, received his dawn output. I had not 
previously seen the pulse of the Admiralty beat so strong and 

We made the agreement between ourselves that neither of 
us should take any important action without consulting the 
other, unless previous accord had been reached. To this 
agreement we both scrupulously adhered. We had thus 


formed, for the first time, an overwhelmingly strong control 
and central authority over the whole course of the naval war, 
and were in a position to make our will prevail throughout 
the fleets and all branches of the naval administration, as 
well as to hold our own against all outside interference. I 
had for a long time been accustomed to write my minutes 
in red ink. Fisher habitually used a green pencil. To quote 
his words, 'it was the port and starboard lights.' As long 
as the port and starboard lights shone together, all went well. 
We had established a combination which, while it remained 
unbroken, could not have been overthrown by intrigue at 
home or the foe on the sea. 



October, November and December, 19 14 

1 111 fared it then with Roderick Dhu, 
That on the field his targe he threw, 
Whose brazen studs and tough bull hide 
Had Death so often dashed aside. 
For train'd abroad his arms to wield 
Fitz James's blade was sword and shield.' 

Scott, 'The Lady of the Lake,' Canto V, XV. 

The Mystery of Admiral von Spee — First Threat to South American 
Waters — His Apparition at Somoa — His Second Disappearance — 
Renewed Threat to South America — Rear-Admiral Cradock Or- 
dered to Concentrate — The Relative Forces — Importance of the 
Battleship Canopus — The First Combination against Admiral von 
Spee — Rear-Admiral Cradock's Disquieting Telegram — His Cruise 
up the Chilean Coast without the Canopus — Certain News of the 
Enemy's Arrival — Admiralty Measures — News of the Action of 
Coronel — The Meeting of the Squadrons — The British Attack 
the Germans — Destruction of the Good Hope and Monmouth — ■ 
Escape of the Glasgow — Reflections upon the Admiralty Examined 
— An Explanation of Rear-Admiral Cradock's Action — The Al- 
ternatives Open to the German Squadron — Second Combination 
against Admiral von Spee — Battle-cruisers Invincible and Inflex- 
ible Ordered to South America — Arrangements with the Japanese 
Admiralty — Development of the Second Combination — British 
Naval Resources at their Utmost Strain — Konigsberg Blockaded 
and the Emden Sunk — Relief in the Indian Ocean — Accelerated 
Despatch of the Battle-Cruisers — What Admiral von Spee Found 
at the Falklands — News of the Battle and of Victory — The Ac- 
tion — Total Destruction of the German Squadron — End of the 
German Cruiser Warfare — End of the Great Strain. 

AS has already been described, Admiral von Spee, the Ger- 
■**■ man Commander-in-Chief in the Far East, sailed from 
Tsingtau (Kiauchau), 1 in the last week of June, with the 

1 Throughout this chapter the map facing page 476 and the table of 
ships on page 478 will be found useful. 



Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and on August 5, immediately 
after the British declaration of war, these two powerful ships 
were reported as being near the Solomon Islands. They were 
subsequently reported at New Guinea on the 7th August, and 
coaling at the Caroline Islands on the 9th. After this they 
vanished into the immense Pacific with its innumerable islands, 
and no one could tell where they would reappear. As the days 
succeeded one another and grew into weeks, our concern on 
their account extended and multiplied. Taking the Caroline 
Islands as the centre, we could draw daily widening circles, 
touching ever more numerous points where they might sud- 
denly spring into action. These circles were varied according as 
the Germans were credited with proceeding at most economi- 
cal speed, at three-quarter speed, or at full speed; and the 
speed at which they would be likely to steam depended upon 
the nature of the potential objective which in each case might 
attract them. 

We have seen how the mystery of their whereabouts af- 
fected the movements of the New Zealand and Australian 
convoys, and what very anxious decisions were forced upon 
us. We have seen how the uncertainty brooded over the 
little expedition from New Zealand to Samoa: how glad we 
were when it arrived safely and seized the island : how prompt 
we were — providentially prompt — to snatch every vessel 
away from the roadstead of Samoa the moment the troops 
and stores were landed. When at length more than five weeks 
had passed without any sign of their presence, we took a com- 
plete review of the whole situation. All probabilities now 
pointed to their going to the Magellan Straits or to the West 
Coast of South America. The Australian convoy was now 
provided with superior escort. Not a British vessel could 
be found in the anchorage at Samoa. The old battleships 
were already on their way to guard the convoys in the Indian 
Ocean. There was nowhere where they could do so much 
harm as in the Straits of Magellan. Moreover, we thought 


we had indications of German coaling arrangements on the 
Chilian coast. There were rumours of a fuelling base in the 
Magellan Straits, for which diligent search was being made. 
There was certainly German trade still moving along the 
Western Coast of South America. 

Accordingly, on the 14th September, the Admiralty sent 
the following telegram to Rear-Admiral Cradock, who com- 
manded on the South American Station: — 

Admiralty to Rear-Admiral Cradock, H.M.S. "Good Hope." 

September 14, 5.50 p.m. 

The Germans are resuming trade on West Coast of South 
America, and Scharnhorst and Gneisenau may very probably 
arrive on that coast or in Magellan Straits. 

Concentrate a squadron strong enough to meet Scharnhorst 
and Gneisenau, making Falkland Islands your coaling base, 
and leaving sufficient force to deal with Dresden and Karlsruhe. 

Defence is joining you from Mediterranean, and Canopus is 
now en route to Abrolhos. 1 You should keep at least one 
County class and Canopus with your flagship until Defence 

When you have superior force, you should at once search 
Magellan Straits with squadron, keeping in readiness to re- 
turn and cover the River Plate, or, according to information, 
search as far as Valparaiso northwards, destroy the German 
cruisers, and break up the German trade. 

You should search anchorage in neighbourhood of Egg 
Harbour and Golfo Nuevo. . . . 2 

Two days later all uncertainties, and with them our anxie- 
ties, vanished, and news was received that both Scharnhorst 
and Gneisenau had appeared off Samoa on the 14th Septem- 
ber. There was nothing for them to hurt there. The empty 
roadstead mocked their power. The British flag flew on shore, 
and a New Zealand garrison far too strong for any landing 

1 The rocks of Abrolhos off the Brazilian Coast were our secret coal- 
ing base in these waters. 

2 Details relating to colliers, supply ships and mails have been 
omitted, unless of significance to the account. 


party snarled at them from behind defences. Thus informed 
of the fate of their colony, the German cruisers put to sea 
after firing a few shells at the Government establishments. 

A week later, the 22nd, they were at Papeete, which they 
bombarded, destroying half the town and sinking the little 
French gunboat Zelee which was in harbour. They left the 
same morning, steering on a Northerly course. We did not 
hear of this till the 30th. Then once again silence descended 
on the vast recesses of the Pacific. 

We could now begin drawing our circles again from the 
beginning, and at any rate for several weeks we need not 
worry about these ships. Accordingly the Admiralty tele- 
graphed to Admiral Cradock, on the 16th September, telling 
hum the new situation and that he need not now concentrate 
his cruisers, but could proceed at once to attack German 
trade in the Straits of Magellan and on the Chilian coast. 

Nothing more happened for a fortnight. On October 4, 
wireless signals from the Scharnhorst were heard by Suva wire- 
less station, and also at Wellington, New Zealand. From this 
it appeared that the two vessels were on the way between 
the Marquesas Islands and Easter Island. Evidently the 
South American plan was in their mind. We passed our in- 
formation to Admiral Cradock with the following telegram: — 

Admiralty to Rear- Admiral Cradock. (October 5.) 
It appears from information received that Gneisenau and 
Scharnhorst are working across to South America. A Dresden 
may be scouting for them. You must be prepared to meet 
them in company. Canopus should accompany Glasgow, 
Monmouth and Otranto, and should search and protect trade 
in combination. 

On the 8th (received 12th) Admiral Cradock replied as 
follows: — 

1 Without alarming, respectfully suggest that, in event of 
the enemy's heavy cruisers and others concentrating West 


Coast of South America, it is necessary to have a British force 
on each coast strong enough to bring them to action. 

' For, otherwise, should the concentrated British force sent 
from South-East Coast be evaded in the Pacific, which is 
not impossible, ( ? and) thereby ( ? get) behind the enemy, 
the latter could destroy Falkland, English Bank, and Abrol- 
hos coaling bases in turn with little to stop them, and with 
British ships unable to follow up owing to want of coal, enemy 
might possibly reach West Indies.' 

And on the same day (received nth) he reported evidences 
of the presence of the Dresden in South American waters: — 

Following intelligence re Scharnhorst and Gneisenau has 
been received. Evidence found by Good Hope revisiting 
Orange Bay on 7th October that Dresden had been there nth 
September, and there are indications that Scharnhorst and 
Gneisenau may be joined by Niirnberg, Dresden, and Leipzig. 
I intend to concentrate at Falkland Islands and avoid divi- 
sion of forces. I have ordered Canopus to proceed there, and 
Monmouth, Glasgow, and Otranto not to go farther north than 
Valparaiso until German cruisers are located again. . . . 

With reference to Admiralty telegram No. 74, does Defence 
join my command ? 

This was an important telegram. It showed a strong proba- 
bility that the enemy was concentrating with the intention 
to fight. In these circumstances we must clearly concentrate 
too. I now looked at the Staff telegram of 5th October, and 
thought it was not sufficiently explicit on the vital point, viz., 
concentration for battle. In order that there should be no 
mistake, I wrote across the back of Admiral Cradock's tele- 
gram received on the 12th October the following minute: — 

First Sea Lord. 

In these circumstances it would be best for the British ships 
to keep within supporting distance of one another, whether 
in the Straits or near the Falklands, and to postpone the cruise 


along the West Coast until the present uncertainty about 
Scharnhorst-Gneisenau is cleared up. 

They and not the trade are our quarry for the moment. 
Above all, we must not miss them. 

w. s. c. 

The First Sea Lord the same evening added the word ' Set- 

On the 14th October, I discussed the whole situation which 
was developing with the First Sea Lord, and in accordance 
with my usual practice I sent him a minute after the con- 
versation of what I understood was decided between us. 

First Sea Lord. 

I understood from our conversation that the dispositions 
you proposed for the South Pacific and South Atlantic were 
as follows: — 

(1) Cradock to concentrate at the Falklands Canopus, 
Monmouth, Good Hope and Otranto. 

(2) To send Glasgow round to look for Leipzig and attack, 
and protect trade on the West Coast of South America as 
far north as Valparaiso. 

(3) Defence to join Carnarvon in forming a new combat 
squadron on the great trade route from Rio. 

(4) Albion to join the flag of C.-in-C. Cape for the pro- 
tection of the Luderitz Bay expedition. 

These arrangements have my full approval. 

Will you direct the Chief of the Staff to have a statement 
prepared showing the dates by which these dispositions will 
be completed, and the earliest date at which Scharnhorst and 
Gneisenau could arrive in the respective spheres. 

I presume Admiral Cradock is fully aware of the possi- 
bility of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau arriving on or after the 
17th instant in his neighbourhood; and that if not strong 
enough to attack, he will do his utmost to shadow them, pend- 
ing the arrival of reinforcements. 

The following telegram was sent to Admiral Cradock at 
the same time: — 


Admiralty to Rear- Admiral Cradock, October 14. 

Concur in your concentration of Canopus, Good Hope, Glas- 
gow, Monmouth, Otranto, for combined operation. 

We have ordered Stoddart in Carnarvon to Montevideo as 
Senior Naval Officer north of that place. 

Have ordered Defence to join Carnarvon. 

He will also have under his orders Cornwall, Bristol, Orama 
and Macedonia. 

Essex is to remain in West Indies. 

On the 1 8th Admiral Cradock telegraphed: — 

'I consider it possible that Karlsruhe has been driven West, 
and is to join the other five. I trust circumstances will enable 
me to force an action, but fear that strategically, owing to 
Canopus, the speed of my squadron cannot exceed 12 knots.' 

Thus it is clear that up to this date the Admiral fully in- 
tended to keep concentrated on the Canopus, even though 
his squadron speed should be reduced to 12 knots. Officially 
the Canopus could steam from 16 to 17 knots. Actually in 
the operations she steamed 15^. 

Let us now examine the situation which was developing. 1 
The Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau were drawing near the 
South Coast of America. On the way they might be met by 
the light cruisers Leipzig, Dresden and Niirnberg. The squad- 
ron which might thus be formed would be entirely composed 
of fast modern ships. The two large cruisers were powerful 
vessels. They carried each eight 8-inch guns arranged in 
pairs on the upper deck, six of which were capable of fir- 
ing on either beam. Both ships being on permanent foreign 
service were fully manned with the highest class of German 
crews; and they had in fact only recently distinguished them- 
selves as among the best shooting ships of the whole German 
Navy. Against these two vessels and their attendant light 
cruisers, Admiral Cradock had the Good Hope and the Mon- 
1 The table of ships on page 478 will be found useful. 


mouth. The Good Hope was a fine old ship from the Third 
Fleet with a 9' 2-inch gun at either end and a battery of six- 
teen 6-inch guns amidships. She had exceptionally good 
speed (23 knots) for a vessel of her date. Her crew consisted 
mainly of reservists, and though she had good gunlayers she 
could not be expected to compare in gunnery efficiency with 
the best manned ships either in the British or German Navies. 
The Monmouth was one of the numerous County class against 
which Fisher had so often inveighed — a large ship with good 
speed but light armour, and carrying nothing heavier than a 
battery of fourteen 6-inch guns, of which nine could fire on 
the beam. These two British armoured cruisers had little 
chance in an action against the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. 
No gallantry or devotion could make amends for the disparity 
in strength, to say nothing of gunnery. If brought to battle 
only the greatest good fortune could save them from destruc- 
tion. It was for this reason that the moment the Admiralty 
began to apprehend the possibility of the arrival of the Scharn- 
horst and Gneisenau on the South American station, we sent 
a capital ship to reinforce Admiral Cradock. Our first in- 
tention had been to send the Indomitable from the Darda- 
nelles, and at one time she had already reached Gibraltar on 
her way to South America when increasing tension with 
Turkey forced her to return to the Dardanelles. As we did 
not conceive ourselves able to spare a single battle-cruiser 
from the Grand Fleet at that time, there was nothing for it 
but to send an old battleship; and by the end of September 
the Canopus was already steaming from Abrolhos rocks through 
the South Atlantic. 

With the Canopus, Admiral Cradock's squadron was safe. 
The Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would never have ventured 
to come within decisive range of her four 12 -inch guns. To 
do so would have been to subject themselves to very serious 
damage without any prospect of success. The old battleship, 
with her heavy armour and artillery, was in fact a citadel 


around which all our cruisers in those waters could find ab- 
solute security. It was for this reason that the Admiralty 
had telegraphed on 14th September: 'Keep at least Canopus 
and one County class with your flagship ' ; and again, on the 
5th October: ' Canopus should accompany Glasgow, Mon- 
mouth and Otranto' It was for this reason that I was glad 
to read Admiral Cradock's telegram: 'Have ordered Canopus 
to Falkland Islands, where I intend to concentrate and avoid 
division of forces/ on which I minuted: 'In these circum- 
stances it would be best for the British ships to keep within 
supporting distance of one another, whether in the Straits or 
near the Falklands'; and it was for this same reason that 
the Admiralty telegraphed on the 14th October: 'Concur in 
your concentration of Good Hope, Canopus, Monmouth, Glas- 
gow, Otranto for combined operation. . . .' 

It was quite true that the speed of the Canopus was in fact 
only fifteen and a half knots, and that as long as our cruisers 
had to take her about with them they could not hope to catch 
the Germans. All the Canopus could do was to prevent the 
Germans catching and killing them. But that would not be 
the end of the story; it would only be its beginning. When 
the Germans reached the South American coast after their 
long voyage across the Pacific, they would have to coal and 
take in supplies: they were bound to try to find some place 
where colliers could meet them, and where they could refit 
and revictual. The moment they were located, either by one 
of our light cruisers or reported from the shore, the uncer- 
tainty of their whereabouts was at an end. We could in- 
stantly concentrate upon them from many quarters. The 
Japanese battleship Hizen and cruiser Idzumo, with the Brit- 
ish light cruiser Newcastle, were moving southward across the 
Northern Pacific towards the coast of South America — a force 
also not capable of catching the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, 
but too strong to be attacked by them. On the East Coast 
of South America was Rear- Admiral Stoddart's squadron 


with the powerful modern armoured cruiser Defence, with 
two more County class cruisers, Carnarvon (y 5-inch guns) 
and Cornwall, the light cruiser Bristol, and the armed mer- 
chant cruisers Macedonia and Orama. All these ships could 
be moved by a single order into a common concentration 
against the German squadron the moment we knew where 
they were; and meanwhile, so long as he kept within sup- 
porting distance of the Canopus, Admiral Cradock could 
have cruised safely up the Chilean coast, keeping the Ger- 
mans on the move and always falling back on his battle- 
ship if they attempted to attack him. The Good Hope and 
Monmouth steaming together were scarcely inferior in de- 
signed speed to the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and these 
last had been long at sea. Admiral Cradock could, therefore, 
have kept on observing the Germans, disturbing them, pro- 
voking them and drawing them on to the Canopus. More- 
over, in the Glasgow he had a light cruiser winch was much 
superior in speed to the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and su- 
perior both in strength and speed to any one of the German 
light cruisers concerned. 

I cannot therefore accept for the Admiralty any share in 
the responsibility for what followed. The first rule of war J 
is to concentrate superior strength for decisive action and ^ 
to avoid division of forces or engaging in detail. The Ad- 
miral showed by his telegrams that he clearly appreciated 
this. The Admiralty orders explicitly approved his asser- 
tion of these elementary principles. We were not, therefore, 
anxious about the safety of Admiral Cradock's squadron. A 
more important and critical situation would arise, if in cruis- 
ing up the West Coast of South America with his concentrated 
force Admiral Cradock missed the Germans altogether, and 
if they passed to the southward of him through the Straits 
of Magellan or round the Horn, refuelling there in some secret 
bay, and so came on to the great trade route from Rio. Here 
they would find Admiral Stoddart, whose squadron when 


concentrated, though somewhat faster and stronger than the 
Germans, had not much to spare in either respect. It was 
for this reason that I had deprecated in my minute of the 
1 2th October Admiral Cradock's movement up the West Coast 
and would have been glad to see him remaining near the 
Straits of Magellan, where he could either bar the path of 
the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau, or manoeuvre to join forces 
with Admiral Stoddart. However, I rested content with the 
decisions conveyed in the Admiralty telegram of the 14th 
October, and awaited events. 

Suddenly, on the 27th October, there arrived a telegram 
from Admiral Cradock which threw me into perplexity: — 

Rear- Admiral Cradock to Admiralty. 

Good Hope. 26th October, 7 p.m. At sea. 

Admiralty telegram received 7 th October. With reference 
to orders to search for enemy and our great desire for early 
success, I consider that owing to slow speed of Canopus it is 
impossible to find and destroy enemy's squadron. 

Have therefore ordered Defence to join me after calling for 
orders at Montevideo. 

Shall employ Canopus on necessary work of convoying 

We were then in the throes of the change in the office of 
First Sea Lord, and I was gravely preoccupied with the cir- 
cumstances and oppositions attending the appointment of 
Lord Fisher. But for this fact I am sure I should have re- 
acted much more violently against the ominous sentence: 
i Shall employ Canopus on necessary work of convoying col- 
liers.' As it was I minuted to the Naval Secretary (Admiral 
Oliver) as follows: — 

'This telegram is very obscure, and I do not understand 
what Admiral Cradock intends and wishes.' 

I was reassured by his reply on the 29th October: — 


1 The situation on the West Coast seems safe. If Gneisenau 
and Scharnhorst have gone north they will meet eventually 
Idzumo, Newcastle, and Hizen moving south, and will be forced 
south on Glasgow and Monmouth who have good speed and 
can keep touch and draw them south on to Good Hope and 
Canopus, who should keep within supporting distance of each 

The half fear which had begun to grow in my mind that 
perhaps the Admiral would go and fight without the Canopus 
which I thought was so improbable that I did not put it on 
paper, was allayed. It would, of course, be possible for him 
to manoeuvre forty or fifty miles ahead of the Canopus and 
still close her before fighting. To send the Defence to join 
Admiral Cradock would have left Admiral Stoddart in a hope- 
less inferiority. Indeed, in a few hours arrived Admiral Stod- 
dart's protest of the 29th October: — 

' I have received orders from Admiral Cradock to send De- 
fence to Montevideo to coal, obtain charts, and to await fur- 
ther orders. 

Submit I may be given two fast cruisers in place of De- 
fence, as I do not consider force at my disposal sufficient. . . .' 

The Admiralty Staff had, however, already replied in ac- 
cordance with all our decisions: — 

Admiralty to Rear- Admiral Cradock. 
(Sent October 28, 1914, 6.45 p.m.) 

Defence is to remain on East Coast under orders of Stod- 

This will leave sufficient force on each side in case the hos- 
tile cruisers appear there on the trade routes. 

There is no ship available for the Cape Horn vicinity. 

Japanese battleship Hizen shortly expected on North Amer- 
ican coast; she will join with Japanese Idzumo and Newcastle 
and move south towards Galapagos. 


But neither this nor any further message reached Admiral 
Cradock. He had taken his own decision. Without waiting 
for the Defence, even if we had been able to send her, and 
leaving the Canopus behind to guard the colliers, he was al- 
ready steaming up the Chilean coast. But though he left 
the inexpugnable Canopus behind because she was too slow, 
he took with him the helpless armed merchant cruiser Otranto, 
which was scarcely any faster. He was thus ill-fitted either 
to fight or run. 

He telegraphed to us from off Vallenar at 4 p.m. on 27th 
October (received 1st November, 4.33 a.m.) : — 

'Have received your telegram 105. Have seized German 
mails. Monmouth, Good Hope and Otranto coaling at Valle- 
nar. Glasgow patrolling vicinity of Coronel to intercept Ger- 
man shipping rejoining flag later on. I intend to proceed 
northward secretly with squadron after coaling and to keep 
out of sight of land. Until further notice continue telegraph- 
ing to Montevideo.' 

And at noon on 29th October (received 1st November, 
7.40 a.m.) : — 

1 Until further notice mails for Rear- Admiral Cradock, Good 
Hope, Canopus, Monmouth, Glasgow, Otranto, should be for- 
warded to Valparaiso.' 

The inclusion of the Canopus in the middle of the latter 
message seemed to indicate the Admiral's intention to work 
in combination with the Canopus even if not actually con- 
centrated. These were the last messages received from him. 

On the 30th October Lord Fisher became First Sea Lord. 
As soon as he entered the Admiralty I took him to the War 
Room and went over with him on the great map the positions 
and tasks of every vessel in our immense organisation. It 
took more than two hours. The critical point was clearly in 
South American waters. Speaking of Admiral Cradock's 


position, I said, 'You don't suppose he would try to fight 
them without the Canopus?' He did not give any decided 

Early on the 3rd November we got our first certain news 
of the Germans. 

Consul-General, Valparaiso, to Admiralty. {Sent 5.20 p.m., 
2nd November. Received 3.10 a.m., yd November.) 
Master of Chilean merchant vessel reports that on 1st No- 
vember 1 p.m. he was stopped by Nilrnberg 5 miles off Cape 
Carranza about 62 miles north of Talcahuano. Officers re- 
mained on board 45 minutes. Two other German cruisers 
lay west about 5 and 10 miles respectively. Master believes 
one of these was Scharnhorst. On 26th October, 1 p.m. Leip- 
zig called at Mas-a-Fuera having crew 456 and 10 guns, 18 
days out from Galapagos. She was accompanied by another 
cruiser name unknown. They bought oxen and left same 
day. On 29th October unknown warship was seen in lat. 
33 south, long. 74 west, steaming towards Coquimbo. 

Here at last was the vital message for which the Admiralty 
Staff had waited so long. Admiral von Spee's squadron was 
definitely located on the West Coast of South America. He 
had not slipped past Admiral Cradock round the Horn as 
had been possible. For the moment Admiral Stoddart was 
perfectly safe. With the long peninsula of South America 
between him and the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, there was 
no longer any need for him to keep the Defence. She could 
join Cradock for what we must hope would be an early battle. 
After surveying the new situation we telegraphed to Admiral 
Stoddart as follows: — 

{Sent 6.20 p.m., yd November.) 
Defence to proceed with all possible dispatch to join Ad- 
miral Cradock on West Coast of America. Acknowledge. 

This telegram was initialled by Admiral Sturdee, Lord 
Fisher and myself. We telegraphed at the same time to the 
Japanese Admiralty: — 


Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Niirnberg, Leipzig, Dresden have 
been located near Valparaiso coaling and provisioning. This 
squadron is presumably concentrated for some serious opera- 
tion. We are concentrating Glasgow, Good Hope, Canopus, 
Monmouth, and Defence on the S.W. coast of South America, 
hoping to bring them to battle. . . . We hope that the 
Japanese Admiralty may now find it possible to move some 
of their squadrons eastward in order to intercept the German 
squadron and prevent its return to Asiatic or Australian wa- 
ters. . . . We indicate our views in order to obtain yours and 
to concert common action. 

We also telegraphed to Admiral Cradock once more reiter- 
ating the instructions about the Canopus: — 

{Sent 6.55 p.m., yd November.) 

Defence has been ordered to join your flag with all dispatch. 
Glasgow should find or keep in touch with the enemy. You 
should keep touch with Glasgow concentrating the rest of 
your squadron including Canopus. It is important you should 
effect your junction with Defence at earliest possible moment 
subject to keeping touch with Glasgow and enemy. Enemy 
supposes you at Corcovados Bay. Acknowledge. 

But we were already talking to the void. 

When I opened my boxes at 7 o'clock on the morning of 
November 4, I read the following telegram: — 

Maclean, Valparaiso, to Admiralty. (Sent November 3, 19 14, 

6.10 p.m.) 

Have just learnt from Chilean Admiral that German Ad- 
miral states that on Sunday at sunset, in thick and wicked 
weather, his ships met Good Hope, Glasgow, Monmouth, and 
Otranto. Action was joined, and Monmouth turned over and 
sank after about an hour's fighting. 

Good Hope, Glasgow and Otranto drew off into darkness. 

Good Hope was on fire, an explosion was heard, and she is 
believed to have sunk. 

Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and Niirnberg were among the Ger- 
man ships engaged. 


The story of what had happened, so far as it ever can be 
known, is now familiar; it is fully set out in the official his- 
tory, and need only be summarised here. Arrived on the 
Chilean coast, having refuelled at a lonely island, and hearing 
that the British light cruiser Glasgow was at Coronel, Admiral 
von Spee determined to make an attempt to cut her off, and 
with this intention steamed southward on November 1 
with his whole squadron. By good fortune the Glasgow left 
harbour before it was too late. Almost at the same mo- 
ment, Admiral Cradock began his sweep northward, hoping 
to catch the Leipzig, whose wireless had been heard repeat- 
edly by the Glasgow. He was rejoined by the Glasgow at 
half-past two, and the whole squadron proceeded northward 
abreast about fifteen miles apart. At about half-past four the 
smoke of several vessels was seen to the northward, and in 
another quarter of an hour the Glasgow was able to identify 
the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and a German light cruiser. The 
Canopus was nearly 300 miles away. Was there still time to 
refuse action ? Undoubtedly there was. The Good Hope and 
Monmouth had normal speeds of 23 knots and 22*4 respectively 
and could certainly steam 21 knots in company that day. 
The Glasgow could steam over 25 v The Scharnhorst and 
Gneisenau had nominal speeds of 23*2 and 23*5; but they 
had been long in southern seas and out of dock. On the knowl- 
edge he possessed at that moment Admiral Cradock would 
have been liberal in allowing them 22 knots. Rough weather 
would reduce speeds equally on both sides. Had he turned 
at once and by standing out to sea offered a stern chase to the 
enemy, he could only be overhauled one knot each hour. 
When the enemy was sighted by the Glasgow at 4.45, the 
nearest armoured ships were about 20 miles apart. There 
were scarcely two hours to sundown and less than three to 

But the Otranto was a possible complication. She could 
only steam 18 knots, and against the head sea during the 


action she did in fact only steam 15 knots. As this weak, 
slow ship had been for some unexplained reason sent on ahead 
with the Glasgow, she was at the moment of sighting the enemy 
only 17 miles distant. Assuming that Admiral von Spee could 
steam 22 knots, less 3 for the head sea, i.e. 19, he would over- 
haul the Otranto 4 knots an hour. On this he might have 
brought her under long-range fire as darkness closed in. To 
that extent she reduced the speed of the British squadron 
and diminished their chances of safety. This may have 
weighed with Admiral Cradock. 

We now know, of course, that in spite of being cumbered 
with the Otranto he could, as it happened, easily and certainly 
have declined action had he attempted to do so. At the 
moment of being sighted, Admiral von Spee had only steam 
for 14 knots, and had to light two more boilers to realise his 
full speed. Further his ships were dispersed. To concentrate 
and gain speed took an hour and a half off the brief daylight 
during which the British ships would actually have been in- 
creasing their distance. Moreover, in the chase and battle 
of the Falklands the greatest speed ever developed by the 
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau did not exceed 20 knots in favour- 
able weather. There is therefore no doubt he could have got 
away untouched. 

But nothing was farther from the mind of Admiral Cradock. 
He instantly decided to attack. As soon as the Glasgow had 
sighted the enemy, she had turned back towards the flagship, 
preceded by the Monmouth and the Otranto all returning at 
full speed. But Admiral Cradock at 5.10 ordered the squadron 
to concentrate, not on his flagship the Good Hope, the farthest 
ship from the enemy, but on the Glasgow, which though re- 
treating rapidly was still the nearest. At 6.18 he signalled 
to the distant Canopus: 'I am now going to attack enemy.' 
The decision to fight sealed his fate, and more than that the 
fate of the squadron. 

To quote the log of the Glasgow, 'The British Squadron 


turned to port four points together towards the enemy with 
a view to closing them and forcing them to action before 
sunset, which if successful would have put them at a great 
disadvantage owing to the British squadron being between 
the enemy and the sun.' The German Admiral easily evaded 
this manoeuvre by turning away towards the land and keep- 
ing at a range of at least 18,000 yards. Both squadrons 
were now steaming southward on slightly converging courses 
— the British to seaward with the setting sun behind them, 
and the Germans nearer the land. And now began the 
saddest naval action in the war. Of the officers and men 
in both the squadrons that faced each other in these stormy 
seas so far from home, nine out of ten were doomed to perish. 
The British were to die that night: the Germans a month 
later. At 7 o'clock the sun sank beneath the horizon, and 
the German Admiral, no longer dazzled by its rays, opened 
fire. The British ships were silhouetted against the after- 
glow, while the Germans were hardly visible against the dark 
background of the Chilean coast. A complete reversal of 
advantage had taken place. The sea was high, and the main 
deck 6-inch guns both of the Monmouth and of the Good Hope 
must have been much affected by the dashing spray. The 
German batteries, all mounted in modern fashion on the upper 
deck, suffered no corresponding disadvantage from the rough 
weather. The unequal contest lasted less than an hour. One 
of the earliest German salvos probably disabled the Good 
Hope's forward 9* 2-inch gun, which was not fired throughout 
the action. Both she and the Monmouth were soon on fire. 
Darkness came on and the sea increased in violence till the 
Good Hope, after a great explosion, became only a glowing 
speck which was presently extinguished; and the Monmouth, 
absolutely helpless but refusing to surrender, was destroyed 
by the Nurnberg, and foundered, like her consort, with her 
flag still flying. The Otranto, an unarmoured merchantman, 
quite incapable of taking part in the action, rightly held her 


distance and disappeared into the gloom. Only the little 
Glasgow y which miraculously escaped fatal damage among 
the heavy salvos, continued the action until she was left alone 
in darkness on the stormy seas. There were no survivors 
from the two British ships: all perished, from Admiral to 
seaman. The Germans had no loss of life. 
Quoth the Glasgow in her subsequent report: — 

c . . . Throughout the engagement the conduct of officers 
and men was entirely admirable. Perfect discipline and cool- 
ness prevailed under trying circumstances of receiving con- 
siderable volume of fire without being able to make adequate 
return. The men behaved exactly as though at battle prac- 
tice; there were no signs of wild fire, and when the target was 
invisible the gunlayers ceased firing of their own accord. Spirit 
of officers and ship's company of Glasgow is entirely unim- 
paired by serious reverse in which they took part, and that 
the ship may be quickly restored to a condition in which she 
can take part in further operations against the same enemy 
is the unanimous wish of us all.' 

This as it happened they were not to be denied. 

Surveying this tragic episode in the light of after knowl- 
edge, the official historian has blamed the Admiralty on vari- 
ous grounds: first, for dividing the available force into two 
inadequate squadrons under Admiral Cradock and Admiral 
Stoddart; secondly, for a lack of explicitness in the wording 
of the Staff telegrams. I cannot admit that the first charge 
is in any way justified. It would, of course, have been much 
simpler to have concentrated the squadrons of Admiral Crad- 
ock and Admiral Stoddart in the Straits of Magellan and 
awaited events. But until we knew for certain that the Ger- 
man cruisers were coming to South America, there was a great 
disadvantage in denuding the main trade route from Rio of 
all protection. Suppose we had done this and Admiral von 
Spee had remained, as he could easily have done, for many 
weeks at Easter Island, or anywhere else in the Pacific, the 


whole of the Plate trade would then, for all we knew, have 
been at the mercy of the Karlsruhe or of any other German 
commerce destroyer. At least six different courses were open 
to von Spee, and we had, while our resources were at the fullest 
strain, to meet every one of them. Suppose for instance he 
had gone northward to the Panama Canal and, passing swiftly 
through, had entered the West Indies: of what use would be 
our concentration in the Straits of Magellan ? The reasoning 
and state of mind which would have led to such a concentra- 
tion would have involved a virtual suspension of our enter- 
prises all over the world. We could not afford to do that. 
We decided deliberately in October to carry on our protection 
of trade in every theatre in spite of the menace of the unlocated 
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and to do this by means of squad- 
rons which, though they would not be homogeneous in speed 
and class, were in every case if held together capable of righting 
the enemy with good prospects of success. This was true of 
the Anglo- Japanese squadron. It was true of the escort of 
the Australian convoy. It was true of Admiral Stoddart. 
Most of all was it true of Admiral Cradock. The last word 
in such an argument was surely spoken by Admiral von 
Spee. 'The English,' he wrote the day after the battle, 
'have here another ship like the Monmouth; and also it seems 
a battleship of the Queen type, with 12-inch guns. Against 
this last-named we can hardly do anything. If they had 
kept their forces together we should, I suppose, have got the 
worst of it.' 

So far as the clarity of the Staff telegrams is concerned, no 
doubt here and there the wording of naval messages had not 
been sufficiently precise, and this fault ran through much of 
the Naval Staff work in those early days; but on the main 
point nothing could have been more emphatic, nor, indeed, 
should any emphasis have been needed. It ought not to be 
necessary to tell an experienced Admiral to keep concentrated 
and not to be brought to action in circumstances of great 


disadvantage by superior forces. Still, even this was done, 
and in telegram after telegram the importance of not being 
separated from the Canopus, especially sent him for his pro- 
tection, was emphasised. 

Lastly, the official historian has represented the new de- 
cision to reinforce Cradock by the Defence as a reversal by 
Lord Fisher of the mistaken policy hitherto pursued. 

'By the time it (Admiral Cradock's telegram of 31st) reached 
the Admiralty the new Board was installed with Lord Fisher 
as First Sea Lord, and one of their first acts was an effort to 
improve the precarious position in which Admiral Cradock 
found himself. The Defence was immediately ordered to join 
him.' l 

This is unjust both to Prince Louis and to Admiral Sturdee. 
It was not possible to order the superior concentration until 
the enemy had been located, and such concentration would 
have been ordered by any Board the moment the uncertainty 
was cleared up. The official historian would not have fallen 
into this error in a work distinguished for its care and industry, 
if he had mentioned the telegram from the Consul-General, 
Valparaiso, which was received on the morning of the 3rd, or 
if he had noticed that although the position in South Ameri- 
can waters was known to Lord Fisher on the 30th October, 
no fresh dispositions were made or could be made until the 
whereabouts of the enemy was clearly ascertained. Then 
and not till then could we strip Admiral Stoddart or in- 
form Admiral Cradock that the Defence was hurrying to 
join him. 

So far as Admiral Cradock is concerned, 1 cannot do better 
than repeat the words which I wrote at the time and which 
commanded the recorded assent both of Lord Fisher and of 
Sir Arthur Wilson. 

1 Official History of the War : Naval Operations, Vol. I, p. 344. 


Draft of an answer to a Parliamentary question not subse- 
quently put. 

Sir, — As I have already said, I did not think it conve- 
nient to go into this matter, but since it is pressed I will state 
that the Canopus was sent from St. Vincent to join Ad- 
miral Cradock's flag on September 4th, as soon as the possi- 
bility of the arrival of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau on the 
West Coast of South America could be taken into account. 
On October 12 th Admiral Cradock telegraphed to the Ad- 
miralty that the indications showed the possibility of Dresden, 
Leipzig, and Number g joining Scharnhorst and Gneisenau; 
and that he had ordered Canopus to Falkland Islands, where 
he intended to concentrate and avoid division of forces; and 
on October 14th the Admiralty approved specifically by tele- 
gram Admiral Cradock's proposed concentration of Good 
Hope, Monmouth, Canopus, Glasgow, and Otranto for com- 
bined operations. The squadron thus formed was amply 
strong enough to defeat the enemy if attacked by them. It 
was not fast enough to force an engagement; but in view of 
the uncertainty as to which part of the world the enemy's 
squadron would appear in, it was not possible at that time 
to provide another strong fast ship at that particular point. 

Admiral Cradock was an experienced and fearless officer, 
and we are of opinion that feeling that he could not bring 
the enemy immediately to action as long as he kept with the 
Canopus, he decided to attack them with his fast ships alone, 
in the belief that even if he himself were destroyed in the ac- 
tion, he would inflict damage upon them which in the circum- 
stances would be irreparable, and lead to their certain sub- 
sequent destruction. This was not an unreasonable hope; 
and though the Admiralty have no responsibility for Admiral 
Cradock's decision they consider that it was inspired by the 
highest devotion, and in harmony with the spirit and tradi- 
tions of the British Navy. 

We had now to meet the new situation. Our combinations, 
such as they were, were completely ruptured, and Admiral 
von Spee, now in temporary command of South American 
waters, possessed a wide choice of alternatives. He might 
turn back into the Pacific, and repeat the mystery tactics 


which had been so baffling to us. He might steam northward 
up the West Coast of South America and make for the Panama 
Canal. In this case he would run a chance of being brought 
to battle by the Anglo- Japanese Squadron which was moving 
southward. But of course he might not fall in with them, or, 
if he did, he could avoid battle owing to his superior speed. 
He might come round to the East Coast and interrupt the 
main trade route. If he did this he must be prepared to fight 
Admiral Stoddart; but this would be a very even and hazard- 
ous combat. Admiral Stoddart had against the two armoured 
German ships three armoured ships, of which the Defence, 
2l later and a better ship than either of the Germans, mounted 
four 9/ 2-inch and ten f 5-inch guns, and was one of our most 
powerful armoured- cruiser class. Lastly, he might cross the 
Atlantic, possibly raiding the Falkland Islands on his way, 
and arrive unexpectedly on the South African coast. Here 
he would find the Union Government's expedition against the 
German colony in full progress and his arrival would have 
been most unwelcome. General Botha and General Smuts, 
having suppressed the rebellion, were about to resume in a 
critical atmosphere their attack upon German South-West 
Africa, and a stream of transports would soon be flowing with 
the expedition and its supplies from Cape Town to Luderitz 
Bay. Subsequently or alternatively to this intrusion, Ad- 
miral von Spee might steam up the African coast and strike 
at the whole of the shipping of the expedition to the Cam- 
eroons, which was quite without means of defending itself 
against him. 

All these unpleasant possibilities had to be faced by us. 
We had to prepare again at each of many points against a 
sudden blow; and, great as were our resources, the strain 
upon them became enormous. The first step was to restore 
the situation in South American waters. This would cer- 
tainly take a month. My minute of inquiry to the Chief of 
the Staff, written an hour after I had read the first news of 


the disaster, will show the possibilities which existed. It 
will be seen that in this grave need my mind immediately 
turned to wresting a battle-cruiser from the Grand Fleet which, 
joined with the Defence, Carnarvon, Cornwall and Kent, would 
give Admiral Stoddart an overwhelming superiority. 

Director of Operations Division. 

1. How far is it, and how long would it take Dartmouth 
and Weymouth to reach Punta Arenas, Rio, or Abrolhos re- 
spectively, if they started this afternoon with all dispatch ? 

2. How long would it take — 

(a) Kent to reach Rio and Abrolhos ? 

(b) Australia (1) without, and (2) with Montcalm to 

reach Galapagos via Makada Islands, and also 
Idzumo and Newcastle to reach them ? 

(c) The Japanese 2nd Southern Squadron to replace 

Australia at Fiji ? 

(d) Defence, Carnarvon and Cornwall respectively to 

reach Punta Arenas ? 

(e) Invincible to reach Abrolhos, Rio, Punta Arenas ? 
(/) Hizen and Asama to reach Galapagos or Esquimalt P 1 


But I found Lord Fisher in a bolder mood. He would take 
two battle-cruisers from the Grand Fleet for the South Amer- 
ican station. More than that, and much more questionable, 
be would take a third — the Princess Royal — for Halifax and 
later for the West Indies in case von Spee came through the 
Panama Canal. There never was any doubt what ought to 
be sent. The question was what could be spared. We mea- 
sured up our strength in home waters anxiously, observing 
that the Tiger was about to join the 1st Battle-Cruiser Squad- 
ron, that the new battleships Benbow, Empress of India and 
Queen Elizabeth were practically ready. We sent forthwith 
the following order to the Commander-in-Chief: — 

1 All the ships in small capitals fought eventually in the battle of the 
Falkland Islands. 


{November 4, 1914, 12.40 p.m.) 
Order Invincible and Inflexible to fill up with coal at once 
and proceed to Berehaven with all dispatch. They are ur- 
gently needed for foreign service. Admiral and Flag-Captain 
Invincible to transfer to New Zealand. Captain New Zealand 
to Invincible. Tiger has been ordered to join you with all 
dispatch. Give her necessary orders. 

I also telegraphed personally to Sir John Jellicoe as 
follows: — 

{November 5, 12.5 a.m.) 

From all reports received through German sources, we fear 
Cradock has been caught or has engaged with only Monmouth 
and Good Hope armoured ships against Scharnhorst and 
Gneisenau. Probably both British vessels sunk. Position of 
Canopus critical and fate of Glasgow and Otranto uncertain. 

Proximity of concentrated German squadron of 5 good 
ships will threaten gravely main trade route Rio to London. 
Essential recover control. 

First Sea Lord requires Invincible and Inflexible for this 

Sturdee goes Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic and 

Oliver, Chief of Staff. Bartolome, Naval Secretary. 

Apparently we had not at this stage decided finally to send 
the Princess Royal. Sir John Jellicoe rose to the occasion 
and parted with his two battle-cruisers without a word. They 
were ordered to steam by the West Coast to Devonport to fit 
themselves for their southern voyage. Our plans for the 
second clutch at von Spee were now conceived as follows 1 : — 
(1) Should he break across the Pacific; he would be dealt 
with by the very superior Japanese 1st Southern Squadron, 
based on Suva to cover Australia and New Zealand, and com- 
posed as follows: — Kurama (battleship), Tsukuba and Ikoma 
(battle-cruisers), Chikuma and Yahagi (light cruisers). At 
Suva also were the Montcalm and Encounter. Another strong 

1 Here the reader should certainly look at the map facing page 476, 
which deals directly with this situation. 


Japanese squadron (four ships) was based on the Caroline 

(2) To meet him, should he proceed up the West Coast of 
South America, an Anglo- Japanese Squadron, comprising 
Australia (from Fiji), Hizen, Idzumo, Newcastle, was to be 
formed off the North American Coast. 

(3) Should he come round on to the East Coast, Defence, 
Carnarvon, Cornwall, Kent were ordered to concentrate off 
Montevideo, together with Canopus, Glasgow and Bristol, 
and not seek action till joined by Invincible and Inflexible, 
therafter sending the Defence to South Africa. 

(4) Should he approach the Cape station, he would be 
awaited by Defence and also Minotaur (released from the Aus- 
tralian convoy, after we knew of von Spee's arrival in South 
American waters), together with the old battleship Albion, 
and Weymouth, Dartmouth, Astrcea and Hyacinth, light cruis- 
ers: the Union Expedition being postponed for 14 days. 

(5) Should he come through the Panama Canal, he would 
meet the Princess Royal, as well as the Berwick and Lancaster, 
of the West Indian Squadron, and the French Conde. 

(6) Cameroon s were warned to be ready to take their ship- 
ping up the river beyond his reach. 

(7) Should he endeavour to work homewards across the 
South Atlantic, he would come into the area of a new squadron 
under Admiral de Robeck to be formed near the Cape de 
Verde Islands, comprising the old battleship Vengeance, the 
strong armoured cruisers Warrior and Black Prince and the 
Donegal, Highflyer, and later Cumberland. 

Thus to compass the destruction of five warships, only two 
of which were armoured, it was necessary to employ nearly 
thirty, including twenty-one armoured ships, the most part 
of superior metal, and this took no account of the powerful 
Japanese Squadrons, and of French ships or of armed mer- 
chant cruisers, the last-named effective for scouting. 

I telegraphed to the Japanese Admiralty as follows: — 


British Admiralty to Japanese Admiralty. 

November 5, 1914. 

In consequence of unsuccessful action off Chili and definite 
location of German squadron, we have ordered concentration 
off Montevideo of Defence, Kent, Carnarvon and Cornwall. 
These will be joined with all dispatch by Invincible and In- 
flexible battle-cruisers from England, and Dartmouth light 
cruiser from East Africa, and remainder of defeated squadron 
from Chili. This assures the South Atlantic situation. We 
now desire assistance of Japan in making equally thorough ar- 
rangements on Pacific side. We propose for your considera- 
tion and friendly advice the following: — Newcastle and Idzumo 
to go south in company to San Clemente Island off San Diego, 
California, there to meet Hizen from Honolulu. Meanwhile 
Asama will be able to effect internment or destruction of 
Geier. We also propose to move Australia battle-cruiser from 
Fiji to Fanning Island. By the time these moves are com- 
plete, probably by November 17, we may know more of 
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau movements and a further concen- 
tration of Australia and Asama with Hizen, Idzumo and New- 
castle will be possible either at San Clemente or further to 
the south, further movements depending on the enemy. 

We should also like a Japanese squadron to advance to 
Fiji to take the place of the Australia and so guard Australia 
and New Zealand in case the Germans return. 

With regard to the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific, it 
is now known that Emden is the only enemy ship at large. 
We therefore hope that the Japanese squadrons and vessels 
not involved in the eastward movement will draw westward 
into the vicinity of Sumatra and the Dutch East Indies in 
order to block every exit and deny every place of shelter up 
to the 90th meridian of east longitude. 

British Admiralty are combining in Indian waters in search 
of Emden the following light cruisers: — Weymouth, Gloucester, 
Yarmouth, Melbourne, Sydney, and the armoured cruiser 
Hampshire and Russian cruiser Askold. These ships will be 
ready by the middle of November. Thus by concerted action 
between the Allied fleets the Emden should be speedily run 


Japanese Admiralty to British Admiralty. November 7, 19 14. 

Secret and Private. 

'Japanese Admiralty give their consent generally to stra- 
tegical scheme proposed and beg to withdraw the proposal 
of November 6, put forward through Admiral Oguri to the 
British War Staff. Measures will be taken in vicinity of Su- 
matra and Dutch East Indies as asked. First Southern 
Squadron will be dispatched to Fiji, but Japanese Admiralty 
think that it may be necessary for them to extend their sphere 
of operations to the Marquesas Islands. With reference to 
the movements of the Hizen and Asama, Japanese Admiralty 
will carry out your wishes as far as possible, bearing in mind 
necessity of watching the Geier until her ( ? disposition) is 
settled, but the Hizen will be dispatched at once. 

'With reference to the Hizen, Asama and Idzumo, Japanese 
Admiralty request British Admiralty to make arrangements 
necessary for their supply of coal, etc.' 

Meanwhile it had been necessary to provide, as far as pos- 
sible, for the safety of the surviving ships of Admiral Crad- 
ock's squadron and to move the reinforcing ships. 

Admiralty to H.M.S. Kent. 

(November 4, 1914.) 

Urgent. Proceed to the Abrolhos Rocks with all dispatch 
and communicate via Rio. It is intended you shall join Ad- 
miral Stoddart's squadron. 

Admiralty to Rear-Admiral Stoddart, Carnarvon. 
(November 4, 1914.) 

In view of reported sinking of Good Hope and Monmouth 
by Scharnhorst and Gneisenau off Coronel, November 1, ar- 
moured ships on S.E. Coast America must concentrate at 
once. Carnarvon, Cornwall should join Defence off Monte- 
video. Canopus, Glasgow, Otranto have been ordered if pos- 
sible to join you there. Kent from Sierra Leone also has been 
ordered to join your flag via Abrolhos. Endeavour to get 
into communication with them. Enemy will most likely 
come on to the Rio trade route. Reinforcements will meet 
you shortly from England. 



From Admiralty to Canopus, 
{November 4, 1914.) 

In view of reported sinking of Good Hope and Monmouth 
by Schamhorst and Gneisenau on 1st November you should 
make the best of your way to join Defence near Montevideo. 
Keep wide of track to avoid being brought to action by su- 
perior force. 

If attacked, however, Admiralty is confident ship will in 
all circumstances be fought to the last as imperative to damage 
enemy whatever may be consequences. 

Admiralty to 'Glasgow,' 
1 Otranto f 
(November 4, 19 14.) 
You should make the best of your way to join Defence near 
Montevideo. Keep wide of track to avoid being brought to 
action by superior force. 

Admiralty to Governor, Falkland Islands. 

(November 5, 19 14.) 

German cruiser raid may take place. All Admiralty colliers 

should be concealed in unfrequented harbours. Be ready to 

destroy supplies useful to enemy and hide codes effectively on 

enemy ships being sighted. Acknowledge. 

In a few days we learned that her continuous fast steaming 
had led to boiler troubles in the Canopus, and we had to 
direct her to the Falklands. 

Admiralty to Canopus. 
(November 9, 1914, 3.10 a.m.) 
You are to remain in Stanley Harbour. Moor the ship so 
that the entrance is commanded by your guns. Extemporise 
mines outside entrance. Send down your topmasts and be 
prepared for bombardment from outside the harbour. Stimu- 
late the Governor to organise all local forces and make de- 
termined defence. Arrange observation stations on shore, 
by which your fire on ships outside can be directed. Land 
guns or use boats' torpedoes to sink a blocking ship before 


she reaches the Narrows. No objection to your grounding 
ship to obtain a good berth. 

Should Glasgow be able to get sufficient start of enemy to 
avoid capture, send her on to the River Plate; if not, moor 
her inside Canopus. 

Repair your defects and wait orders. 1 

The strain upon British naval resources in the outer seas, 
apart from the main theatre of naval operations, was now 
at its maximum and may be partially appreciated from the 
following approximate enumerations: — 

Combination against von Spee, 30 ships. 

In search of the Emden and Konigsberg, 8 ships. 

General protection of trade by vessels other than the above, 
40 ships. 

Convoy duty in the Indian Ocean, 8 ships. 

Blockade of the Turco-German fleet at the Dardanelles, 
3 ships. 

Defence of Egypt, 2 ships. 

Miscellaneous minor tasks, 11 ships. 

Total, 102 ships of all classes. 

We literally could not lay our hands on another vessel of 
any sort or kind which could be made to play any useful part. 
But we were soon to have relief. 

Already on October 30 news had reached us that the Konigs- 
berg had been discovered hiding in the Rufigi River in Ger- 
man East Africa, and it was instantly possible to mark her 
down with two ships of equal value and liberate the others. 
On November 9 far finer news arrived. The reader will re- 
member for what purposes the Sydney and Melbourne had 
been attached to the great Australian convoy which was now 
crossing the Indian Ocean. On the 8th, the Sydney, cruising 

1 All the above telegrams had to be sent by various routes and most 
were repeated by several routes, as of course we could not communicate 
direct across these great distances. But I omit the procedure to 
simplify the account. 


ahead of the convoy, took in a message from the wireless sta- 
tion at Cocos Island that a strange ship was entering the Bay. 
Thereafter, silence from Cocos Island. Thereupon the large 
cruiser Ibuki increased her speed, displayed the war flag of 
Japan and demanded permission from the British Officer in 
command of the convoy to pursue and attack the enemy. 
But the convoy could not divest itself of this powerful pro- 
tection and the coveted task was accorded to the Sydney. 
At 9 o'clock she sighted the Emden and the first sea fight in 
the history of the Australian Navy began. It could have 
only one ending. In a hundred minutes the Emden was 
stranded, a flaming mass of twisted metal, and the whole of 
the Indian Ocean was absolutely safe and free. 

In consideration of all the harm this ship had done us with- 
out offending against humanity or the laws of sea war as we 
conceived them, we telegraphed: — 

Admiralty to Commander-in-Chief , China. 

November n, 1914. 

1 Captain, officers and crew of Emden appear to be entitled 
to all the honours of war. Unless you know of any reason to 
the contrary, Captain and officers should be permitted to re- 
tain swords.' 

These martial courtesies were, however, churlishly repaid. 

The clearance of the Indian Ocean liberated all those vessels 
which had been searching for the Emden and the Kbnigsberg. 
Nothing could now harm the Australian convoy. Most of 
its escort vanished. The Emden and the Konigsberg were 
accounted for, and von Spee was on the other side of the globe. 
The Minotaur had already been ordered with all speed to the 
Cape. All the other vessels went through the Red Sea into 
the Mediterranean, where their presence was very welcome 
in view of the impending Turkish invasion of Egypt. 

Meanwhile the Invincible and Inflexible had reached Devon- 
port. We had decided that Admiral Sturdee on vacating the 


position of chief of the staff should hoist his flag in the In- 
vincible, should take command on the South American sta- 
tion, and should assume general control of all the operations 
against von Spee. We were in the highest impatience to get 
him and his ships away. Once vessels fall into dockyard 
hands, a hundred needs manifest themselves. 

On November 9, when Lord Fisher was in my room, the 
following message was put on my table: — 

The Admiral Superintendent, Devonport, reports that 
the earliest possible date for completion of Invincible and 
Inflexible is midnight 13 th November. 

I immediately expressed great discontent with the dock- 
yard delays and asked, ' Shall I give him a prog ? ' or words 
to that effect. Fisher took up the telegram. As soon as he 
saw it he exclaimed, ' Friday the 13th. What a day to 
choose ! ' I then wrote and signed the following order, which 
as it was the direct cause of the battle of the Falklands may 
be reproduced in facsimile. 1 

The ships sailed accordingly and in the nick of time. They 
coaled on November 26 at Abrolhos, where they joined and 
absorbed Admiral Stoddart's squadron (Carnarvon, Corn- 
wall, Kent, Glasgow, Bristol and Orama) and despatched De- 
fence to the Cape, and without ever coming in sight of land 
or using their wireless they reached Port Stanley, Falkland 
Islands, on the night of Dec. 7. Here they found the Canopus 
in the lagoon, prepared to defend herself and the colony in 
accordance with the Admiralty instructions. They immedi- 
ately began to coal. 


After his victory at Coronel, Admiral von Spee comported 
himself with the dignity of a brave gentleman. He put aside 
the fervent acclamations of the German colony of Valparaiso 

1 See opposite page 474. 


and spoke no word of triumph over the dead. He was under 
no delusion as to his own danger. He said of the flowers which 
were presented to him, 'They will do for my funeral.' Gen- 
erally, his behaviour would lead us to suppose that the in- 
ability of the Germans to pick up any British survivors was 
not due to want of humanity; and this view has been accepted 
by the British navy. 

After a few days at Valparaiso he and his ships vanished 
again into the blue. We do not know what were the reasons 
which led him to raid the Falkland Islands, nor what his fur- 
ther plans would have been in the event of success. Pre- 
sumably he hoped to destroy this unfortified British coaling 
base and so make his own position in South American waters 
less precarious. At any rate, at noon on December 6 he set 
off to the eastward from the Straits of Magellan with his five 
ships; and about 8 o'clock on December 8 his leading ship 
(the Gneisenau) was in sight of the main harbour of the Falk- 
lands. A few minutes later a terrible apparition broke upon 
German eyes. Rising from behind the promontory, sharply 
visible in the clear air, were a pair of tripod masts. One 
glance was enough. They meant certain death. 1 The day 
was beautifully fine and from the tops the horizon extended 
thirty or forty miles in every direction. There was no hope 
for victory. There was no chance of escape. A month be- 
fore, another Admiral and his sailors had suffered a similar 



At 5 o'clock that afternoon I was working in my room at 
the Admiralty when Admiral Oliver entered with the follow- 
ing telegram. It was from the Governor of the Falkland Isl- 
ands and ran as follows: — 

'Admiral Spee arrived at daylight this morning with all his 
ships and is now in action with Admiral Sturdee's whole fleet, 
which was coaling. ,' 

1 Only Dreadnoughts had tripods. 



rtl "<,\ 


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Facsimile of Admiralty's Instructions to the Commander-in-Chief at Devonport 


We had had so many unpleasant surprises that these last 
words sent a shiver up my spine. Had we been taken by 
surprise and, in spite of all our superiority, mauled, unready, 
at anchor? 'Can it mean that?' I said to the Chief of the 
Staff. 'I hope not/ was all he said. I could see that my 
suggestion, though I hardly meant it seriously, had disquieted 
him. Two hours later, however, the door opened again, and 
this time the countenance of the stern and sombre Oliver wore 
something which closely resembled a grin. 'It's all right, 
sir; they are all at the bottom.' And with one exception so 
they were. 

When the leading German ships were sighted far away on 
the distant horizon, Admiral Sturdee and his squadron were 
indeed coaling. From the intelligence he had received he 
had convinced himself that the Germans were at Valparaiso, 
and he intended to sail the next day in the hopes of doubling 
the Horn before the enemy could do so. More than two 
hours passed after the enemy first came in sight before he 
could raise steam and get under way. The first shots were 
fired by the 12-inch guns of the Canopus from her sta- 
tionary position on the mudbanks of the inner harbour. 
The Gneisenau had continued to approach until she saw the 
fatal tripods, whereupon she immediately turned round and, 
followed by one of her light cruisers, made off at full speed 
to join her main body. In a few moments the whole of the 
German squadron was steaming off in a westerly direction 
with all possible speed. At 10 o'clock, the Kent, Carnarvon 
and Glasgow having already sailed, Admiral Sturdee came 
out of the harbour in the Invincible, followed by the Inflexible 
and Cornwall', while the light cruisers, one of whom (the Bris- 
tol) had her engines actually opened up, hurried on after as 
fast as possible. 

The whole five ships of the German squadron were now 
visible, hull down on the horizon about fifteen miles away. 


The order was given for general chase, but later on, having 
the day before him, the Admiral regulated the speeds, the 
battle-cruisers maintaining only about 20 knots. This, how- 
ever, was quite sufficient to overhaul the Germans, who after 
their long sojourn in the Pacific without docking were not 
able to steam more than 18 knots in company. Even so, the 
Leipzig began to lag behind, and shortly before 1 o'clock, the 
Inflexible opened fire upon her at 16,000 yards. Confronted 
with having his ships devoured one by one, von Spee took a 
decision which was certainly in accordance with the best tradi- 
tions of the sea. Signalling to his light cruisers to make their 
escape to the South American coast, he turned with the Scharn- 
horst and Gneisenau to face his pursuers. The action which 
followed was on the British side uneventful. The German 
Admiral endeavoured more than once to close to ranges at 
which his powerful secondary armament of 5'9's could play 
their part. The British held off just far enough to make this 
fire ineffective and pounded their enemy with their 12-inch 
guns. At this long range, however, it took a considerable 
time and much ammunition to achieve the destruction of the 
German cruisers. The Scharnhorst, with the Admiral and 
all hands, sank at 4.17 p.m., her last signal to her consort 
being to save herself. Gneisenau continued to fight against 
hopeless odds with the utmost fortitude until 6 o'clock when, 
being in a completely disabled condition, she opened her sea- 
cocks and vanished, with her flag still flying, beneath the icy 
waters of the ocean. The British ships rushing to the spot 
and lowering every available boat were able only to save 200 
Germans, many of whom died the next day from the shock 
of the cold water. When both the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau 
had sunk, the Inflexible had only thirty and the Invincible 
only twenty-two rounds left for each of their 12-inch guns. 

Meanwhile, the other British cruisers had each selected 
one of the flying German light vessels, and a series of chases 
ensued. The Kent (Captain Allen) overtook and sunk the 

£«st fivm Greenwich 20" 


Nurnberg by an effort of steaming which surpassed all pre- 
vious records and even, it is stated, her designed speed. 
The Nilrnberg refused to surrender, and as she foundered by 
the head, the victors could see a group of men on her up- 
lifted stern waving to the last the German flag. The 
Leipzig was finished off by the Glasgow and the Cornwall. 
The Dresden alone for the time made good her escape. She 
was hunted down and destroyed three months later in the 
roadstead of Mas-a-Fuera. 

Thus came to an end the German cruiser warfare in the 
outer seas. With the exception of the Karlsruhe, of which 
nothing had been heard for some time and which we now 
know was sunk by an internal explosion on November 4, and 
the Dresden soon to be hunted down, no German ships of war 
remained on any of the oceans of the world. It had taken 
four months from the beginning of the war to achieve this 
result. Its consequences were far-reaching, and affected simul- 
taneously our position in every part of the globe. The strain 
was everywhere relaxed. All our enterprises, whether of war 
or commerce, proceeded in every theatre without the slightest 
hindrance. Within twenty-four hours orders were sent to a 
score of British ships to return to Home Waters. For the 
first time we saw ourselves possessed of immense surpluses 
of ships of certain classes, of trained men and of naval sup- 
plies of all kinds, and were in a position to use them to the 
best advantage. The public, though gratified by the an- 
nihilating character of the victory, was quite unconscious of 
its immense importance to the whole naval situation. 


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November and December, 19 14 

'. . . . that pale, that white-faced shore, 
whose foot spurns back the ocean's roaring tides 

That water-walled bulwark, still secure 
And confident from foreign purposes.' 

King John. Act II, Sc.i. 

German Dreadnoughts off Yarmouth — What does it mean — Anti- 
climax — Inroads upon the Grand Fleet — The Drain of Refits — 
Sir John Jellicoe's Protests — Admiralty and Commander-in- 
chief — The Dreadnought Margin — The Third Battle Squadron 
to Rosyth — The Admiralty Insist on their view — The Destroyer 
Distribution — A Real Difficulty — A Wearing Discussion — The 
actual Facts of Relative Strength — British Readiness to Accept 
Battle — The Attempted Seaplane Raid on Cuxhaven — The 
Grand Fleet sweeps South — The Invasion Alarm — Moon and 
Tides — Further Intervention on the Belgian Coast — Immense 
Relief of the Falklands Victory — Lord Fisher's View — Corre- 
spondence between us — Lord Fisher and Admiral Sturdee — 
Admiral Oliver's foresight — Growing Power of the Fleet — New 
Construction — Submarines — Fisher's Great Impulse — The Bat- 
tle Cruisers Repulse and Renown — Monitors — The Great Pro- 
gramme — Full Speed Ahead. 

LORD FISHER had barely taken up his duties in the 
' Admiralty, when an incident occurred which seemed to 
indicate the ending of the period of German inactivity in the 
North Sea which had succeeded the action of August 28 in the 
Heligoland Bight. Early in the morning of November 3, the 
unusual signal was made to the Admiralty that several Ger- 
man battle-cruisers or battleships had been sighted off Gorles- 
ton on the Norfolk coast by the mine-sweeping gunboat 
Halcyon and that she was engaged with them. Almost imme- 



diately afterwards heavy shells were reported to be bursting 
in the water and on the beach near Yarmouth. The First Sea 
Lord and I reached the War Room from our bedrooms in a few 
minutes. The question was, What did it mean ? It seemed 
quite certain that German battle cruisers would not be sent 
to throw shells at an open town like Yarmouth. Obviously 
this was a demonstration to divert the British Fleet from 
something else which was going to happen — was already per- 
haps happening. Was it a German raid into the Channel, or 
a serious attempt by the German Navy to intervene upon the 
Belgian coast while the land battle was still raging ? Was it 
a descent on the British coast at Sunderland or Blyth ? We 
had no means of judging. The last thing it seemed possible 
to believe was that first-class units of the German Fleet would 
have been sent across the North Sea simply in order to disturb 
the fisher-folk of Yarmouth. By other signals our destroyers, 
Leopard and Lively, who were patrolling in the neighbourhood 
of Yarmouth, also reported that they were engaged , and added 
that they were proceeding to attack the enemy. Where were 
our main forces ? The Commander-in-Chief was for the first 
time in the war at the Admiralty, whither he had been sum- 
moned to confer with the new First Sea Lord. The Grand 
Fleet was at Lough Swilly in the North of Ireland. The 3rd 
Battle Squadron was steaming through the Irish Channel. No 
part of the Grand Fleet was nearer than Beatty and his battle 
cruisers: and these were as far off as Cromarty. Whatever 
happened, we could not fight a general action with our main 
Fleet till late on the following day. Meanwhile the Harwich 
striking force, the Dover flotillas, Admiral Hood's forces off 
the Belgian coast and Admiral Burney's Channel Fleet must 
do the best they could. If the German demonstration off Yar- 
mouth was the prelude or concomitant to a serious attempt to 
break into the Channel, the very greatest naval events would 
follow. The contingency, as the reader is aware, had always 
been faced, and we were well aware that we should have to 


wait for our revenge till the next day. Meanwhile there was 
nothing to be done but to put all the fleets and flotillas on 
guard and in motion with the double object of resisting to the 
utmost a German attack to the southward and intercepting 
as speedily as possible from the North the return of the enemy. 
Several hours of tension passed ; and then gradually it became 
clear that the German battle cruisers were returning home at 
full speed, and that nothing else was apparently happening; 
and the incredible conclusion forced itself upon us that the 
German Admiralty had had no other purpose in hand than 
this silly demonstration off Yarmouth beach. 

This anticlimax was fatiguing. The experience of bracing 
ourselves to the most tremendous events, and then finding 
nothing happen, was one which we were compelled more than 
once to undergo at the Admiralty. 


The new First Sea Lord was even more sure of the superi- 
ority of the British line of battle over the enemy than I was, 
and in this his views contrasted very sharply with those of 
the Commander-in-Chief. In full agreement with Sir Arthur 
Wilson, he proposed on his assumption of office to bring the 
Third Battle Squadron (the King Edwards) down to Portland 
to increase our security against a German incursion into the 
Channel; and he moved the Fifth Battle Squadron (the 
Formidables) with the two Lord Nelsons to Sheerness to pro- 
vide battleship support for the Harwich Striking Force, and 
to give an additional security against raid or invasion. These 
movements were no sooner determined than news of the Bat- 
tle of Coronel was received (November 4) , and we were forced 
to make far more serious inroads upon Sir John Jellicoe's com- 
mand. The battle cruisers Inflexible and Invincible were sent 
as described to the Falklands: and Lord Fisher, as we have 
seen, demanded the Princess Royal for the Atlantic. 

This last order produced continuous protests from Sir John 
Jellicoe, and led to an interchange of telegrams and letters in 


which the Commander-in-Chief dwelt upon every aspect of 
his dangers and weakness and the Admiralty, while insisting 
on their decision, endeavoured to reassure and placate him. 

Our Dreadnought margin in home waters at the outbreak 
of war had been just sufficient. Every ship was ready and in 
good order. We did not feel that we could spare one. But 
after the first two months we were compelled to send ships 
one at a time from each Battle Squadron down to their home 
ports on the South Coast for refit. A regular system of refits, 
as was foreseen, had to be instituted. This involved the per- 
manent absence of two or three of the most important vessels 
from the Grand Fleet. The enemy, on the other hand, lying 
in his main base, could always in theory be credited with hav- 
ing all his ships available at his selected moment for battle. 
Before, however, the drain of refits came upon us we had suc- 
ceeded in reinforcing the Fleet by five fine ships, so that we 
began the war at our maximum possible strength and always, 
except for the briefest intervals, held or improved on that 

The requirements of the Commander-in-Chief were, how- 
ever, hard to meet. The strategy on which we were all 
agreed, involved keeping the Grand Fleet in distant northern 
waters and required very large forces of destroyers and other 
light craft for its local security, and for its service in battle. 
On the other hand, while no properly defended war harbour 
had yet been created capable of holding the entire fleet, 
various other bases had to be effectively guarded and 
patrolled, for which separate flotillas must be supplied. If at 
any time from any cause, two or three ships were absent from 
the Grand Fleet for a week or two, the Commander-in-Chief 
drew severe comparisons between the German Fleet and his 
own. He was a master of this kind of argument. From 
his own side he deducted any ship which had any defect, how- 
ever temporary, however small — even defects which would 
not have prevented her from taking her place in the line in 



an emergency. He sometimes also deducted two or three of 
the most powerful battleships in the world which had newly 
joined his command because they were not trained up to the 
full level of efficiency of the others; and these were absolutely 
blotted out as if they were of no value whatever. 1 He next 
proceeded to deal with the enemy. He always credited them 
with several ships more than we now know they had, or were 
then thought likely to have. In October, 19 14, he gave cre- 
dence to a suggestion that the four German Dreadnoughts of 
the Konig class had been completely re- armed with 14-inch 
guns. In 191 5 the size of these guns had advanced to 15-inch. 
I was on both occasions compelled to set up expert committees 
to demolish these baseless suppositions. Unable to deny that 
the British line of battle could fire a broadside double in 
weight to that of the Germans, he developed a skilful argu- 
ment to prove that this advantage was more than counter- 
acted by other disadvantages arising from the superior dis- 
placement of contemporary German ships. He dwelt on this 
even at a period when his fleet had been reinforced by seven 
or eight additional units of enormous power without any cor- 
responding accession to the enemy's strength. 

One must admit, nevertheless, that the withdrawal of the 
Princess Royal inflicted a very serious injury upon the Battle 
Cruiser Squadron, and that Sir David Beatty might have had 
to fight an action without any margin of superiority during 
her absence. In this matter, however, Lord Fisher entered 
the lists in person. 

First Sea Lord to Commander-in-Chief. 

Personal. , T , 

November 12, 19 14. 

I want to make it clear to you what the Scharnhorst Squad- 
ron means as regards our dispositions. 

1. We have not heard of them since November 4. 

2. They may adopt the following courses: — 
(a) Go through Panama Canal, smash our West Indian 

1 The Grand Fleet, by Sir John Jellicoe, p. 31. 



Fleet and release all the armed German liners from 
New York — hence the Princess Royal. 

(b) Go to south-east coast of America and stop our vital 

food supplies — hence the two Invincibles. 

(c) Go to the Cape and raid the Army base at Walfish 

Bay — hence the Minotaur to reinforce Albion. 

(d) Go to Duala and relieve the Germans, destroying our 

ships and military expedition — hence the Warrior, 
Black Prince and three Edgar Quinets. 
I hope to send Bartolome to you to-morrow with informa- 
tion which is too secret to be written or telegraphed. 

The secret information pointed to the possibility of the 
Germans endeavouring to slip one or two of their battle cruis- 
ers into the Atlantic to help the return to Germany of the 
Schamhorst and Gneisenau and incidentally to release all their 
fast liners in New York. Lord Fisher became vehemently 
impressed with this idea, and certainly the period was one of 
extreme strategic tension when some enterprise by the enemy 
seemed especially to be expected. 

Admiralty to Commander-in-Chief. 

November 13, 1914. 

Since war began you have gained two Dreadnoughts on bal- 
ance, and will have by 20th twenty-seven superior units to 
twenty. We intend Princess Royal to rejoin you as soon as 
Schamhorst is dealt with. 

During the next month you should suspend sending ships 
away for refit, doing the best you can at Scapa. If notwith- 
standing the above you feel the need of reinforcements we 
should propose to meet you by stationing the eight King Ed- 
wards at Rosyth, where they would be well placed to join you 
for general action or to attack an invading force. 

This would avoid necessity of stationing cruisers there for 
the present. 

If you agree the eight King Edwards will be ordered to sail 

The Commander-in-Chief in reply asserted that the twenty- 
seven units quoted included three ships, two of which had 


never fired a gun and the third was only partially trained. He 
deprecated the Third Battle Squadron being stationed at 
Rosyth, as without being covered by cruisers or sea-going de- 
stroyers, it would run a great risk from mines and submarines 
outside the limits of the port defence. He suggested that it 
was preferable to keep them at Cromarty closely adjacent to 
the main base where they would be covered by the cruisers of 
the Grand Fleet and by the Destroyer Flotilla stationed at 

The Admiralty, however, insisted on the Third Battle 
Squadron being stationed at Rosyth. 

Admiralty to Commander-in-Chief. 

November 16, 1914. 

. . . The importance of preventing the enemy from mak- 
ing a serious attack on our coast and getting away without 
being engaged makes it imperative to have a force nearer the 
probable points of attack than either Scapa Flow or Cro- 
marty, which are practically the same distance off. The coast 
has been so denuded of destroyers for the sake of strengthen- 
ing the force with you (amounting now to seventy-one de- 
stroyers) that there is only a skeleton force of patrol vessels 
available on the East Coast, amounting to three Scouts, 
twenty-three Destroyers, twelve Torpedo Boats, between the 
Naze and St. Abbs Head, a distance of 300 miles. In these 
circumstances we are reluctantly compelled to decide on the 
King Edwards and the Third Cruiser Squadron going to Ro- 
syth, and you should detach half a flotilla of the seventy-one 
destroyers at Scapa Flow to act with them. We are sending 
you a carefully compiled table of comparative strength of 
your Fleet and the German High Sea Fleet, which makes it 
clear that without the Third Battle Squadron you have such 
a preponderance of gun power that with equal gunnery effi- 
ciency a successful result is ensured. . . . 

The Admiralty have in mind the importance of getting back 
the Princess Royal as soon as the situation admits. Your 
proposals as to mining have been carefully considered, but 
the work done by our submarines in the Bight has been of 


such importance that it is undesirable to add to their dangers 
by laying mines whose positions must be very uncertain. The 
Germans have no difficulty in sweeping any channel they wish 
when they want to bring any of their ships out, and do so 
daily. It would be very difficult for us to lay fresh lines in any 
channels they sweep on account of the dangers to the mine- 
layers from our own mines. 

This and preceding telegrams expressed the deliberate 
views of the First Sea Lord and Sir Arthur Wilson, and I was 
in the fullest agreement with them. 1 

The Commander-in-Chief, however, urged that the 71 
destroyers mentioned by the Admiralty included 10 which 
were absent refitting, and pointed out with justice that the 
40 destroyers of the Harwich flotillas had been omitted from 
those at the disposition of the Admiralty. He asked particu- 
larly for reconsideration of the order to detach half a flotilla 
with the Third Battle Squadron. Without these additional 
12 destroyers he stated that the safety of the Dreadnought 
Battle Fleet was seriously endangered; a submarine attack 
on Scapa Flow was quite feasible and ' as I am directed to use 
this base, I trust I shall not be held responsible for any dis- 
aster that may occur.' He concluded by pointing out that 
the relative strength of the High Sea Fleet and the Grand 
Fleet could not be decided without reference to the cruiser and 
destroyer strength of the two fleets: his comparative weakness 
in these essentials counterbalanced, he declared, any battle- 
ship superiority he possessed and made him anxious to be 

Admiralty to Commander-in-Chief. 

November 17, 1914. 
We have carefully reviewed the position and given fullest 
consideration to your wishes. We are confident that your 
fleet with its cruisers and flotillas is strong enough for the defi- 
nite task entrusted to it. In view of the grave needs we have 

1 See Appendix D., p. 566. 


to meet elsewhere we cannot reinforce you at present, nor 
alter our dispositions. 

The 3rd Battle Squadron, 3rd Cruiser Squadron and eight 
destroyers should proceed to Rosyth as ordered. You have, 
of course, full discretion to move your Fleet in any way neces- 
sary to provide for its safety and enable you to meet the 
enemy, and are not tied to Scapa. Every effort is being made 
to accelerate the completion of the submarine defences. 

The destroyer question was one of real difficulty. Al- 
though we had more than double the seagoing strength of the 
German flotillas, we had so much to guard, that we could not 
provide a superior force kept always intact in the hand of the 
Commander-in-Chief for a great Fleet action. 'I know per- 
fectly well/ wrote Sir John Jellicoe on December 4 to Lord 
Fisher, ' that the First and Third Flotillas [from Harwich] will 
not join me in time.' . . . The Germans, he declared, would 
have eight flotillas comprising 88 torpedo boat destroyers, all 
of which would certainly be ready at the selected moment. 
'They have five torpedoes each: total 440 torpedoes — unless 
I can strike at them first. 1 He himself might, he claimed, fall 
as low as 32 or even 28. 'You know/ he added, ' the difficulty 
and objections to turning away from the enemy in a Fleet 
action: but with such a menace I am bound to do it, unless 
my own torpedo boat destroyers can stop or neutralise the 
movement. ' There was no doubt that all the Commander- 
in-Chief's thought fitted together into one consistent whole 
and was the result of profound study and reflection. Lord 
Fisher, however, remained obdurate. 'I think we have to 
stand fast/ he wrote to me, enclosing Sir John Jellicoe's letter. 
'The Tyrwhitt mob and our oversea submarines are our sole 
aggressive force in the South.' He proposed however to put 
one of the Harwich flotillas in the Humber. 'We wait your 
return before action 1 — Humber and Harwich each 290 miles 
from Heligoland — but the complete flotilla at the Humber is 

1 1 was in France for thirty-six hours. — W. S. C. 


very much nearer Jellicoe, and so a salve to him in reply to 
enclosed. As A. K. Wilson observed a moment ago, both he 
and I would probably have written exactly the same letter 
as Jellicoe trying to get all we could! Yours till death, F.' 

This was a wearing discussion, and no one can blame the 
Commander-in-Chief for expressing his anxieties and endeav- 
ouring to keep his command up to the highest strength. I 
always tried to sustain him in every possible way. His power- 
ful orderly brain, his exact and comprehensive knowledge, 
enabled him to develop and perfect in this first year of the 
war the mighty organisation of the Grand Fleet. He bore 
with constancy the many troubles and perplexities of the 
early months. His fine sailorlike qualities made him always 
ready night or day to take his whole gigantic Fleet to sea, 
and he was never so happy as when he was at sea. Even when 
I did not share his outlook, I sympathised with his trials. 
The opinions of Lord Fisher at this period upon the margin of 
strength required for the Grand Fleet were, as will be seen, in 
sharp contrast with those he expressed at a later period dur- 
ing the operations at the Dardanelles. Personally I always 
considered our line of battle amply superior; nor did I be- 
lieve the Germans would be able to bring out at a given 
moment all the 88 torpedo boats with which Sir John Jellicoe 
always credited them. We now know the actual forces which 
the enemy assembled on December 16 of this same year, on 
the occasion when the whole High Sea Fleet made almost the 
most ambitious sortie into the North Sea which its history 
records. There were 13 Dreadnought battleships and 4 battle 
cruisers, total 17 Dreadnoughts instead of the 20 which were 
completed and which the Admiralty counted as available; 
and 53 torpedo boats in place of the Commander-in-Chief's 
88. Against this Sir John Jellicoe had (until refits were re- 
opened at the end of November) 27 superior units (subject to 
what he says about them); and as many of the 71 destroyers 
as were fit for sea on any given day. The Germans also took 


to sea on December 16 a squadron of 8 pre-Dreadnoughts, 
and against this our Third Battle Squadron, which had been 
rightly restored to the Grand Fleet, was a proper and superior 
provision. This balance of strength represents the period of 
our greatest strain in Home waters and all over the world. 

At this, as at all other times, the Admiralty would have 
welcomed a general battle. An attack by seaplanes launched 
from carrying ships upon the Zeppelin sheds near Cuxhaven, 
was planned by us for November 22. On the 20th we tele- 
graphed to Sir John Jellicoe: — 

'Our reliable German information and also our telegram 
No. 338 to you shows, firstly, concentration of German cruis- 
ers, battle cruisers and battleships in Weser and Elbe; and 
secondly, disposal of their submarines to hunt in the Shetlands 
and English Channel. In these favourable circumstances the 
aerial attack on Cuxhaven Zeppelin sheds, which we had 
previously planned and considered desirable in itself, might 
easily bring on a considerable action in which your battle 
cruisers and the Grand Fleet might take part without undue 
risk from German submarines. 

'We suggest for your consideration Tyrwhitt and aero- 
planes attacking on Monday at daybreak, with you support- 
ing him from the northward with whatever force is necessary, 
if the enemy respond to the challenge. Further, if it should 
prove, as some reliable information indicates, that the enemy 
is preparing an offensive raid or sortie himself, our movement 
would bring on a collision at the outset unexpected and dis- 
concerting to him.' 

The Commander-in-Chief, after some discussion, preferred 
Tuesday daybreak for the attack, as the longer notice would 
enable him to finish certain repairing work. The Admiralty 
plans were altered accordingly. We telegraphed on the 21st: — 

'We consider the present a good occasion for a sweep south- 
ward by the Grand Fleet. The seaplane attack is incidental 
and subsidiary, though very desirable in itself. It may bring 


on an action now that the German Fleet is concentrated near 
Wilhelmshaven, and their cruisers and battle cruisers are 
active. It will frustrate any offensive movement they may 
intend, as reported. . . . Tuesday, 24th, at 5.30 a.m., will be 
the time/ 

No result was, however, achieved. Sir John Jellicoe brought 
the Battle Fleet down into the centre of the North Sea about 
180 miles from Heligoland, with the battle-cruisers about 40 
miles nearer. But in the weather prevailing the seaplanes 
could hardly get off the water; and the Germans remained 
unaware of our movements and without any plans of their 
own. The episode shows however the underlying confidence 
of the Admiralty and of the Commander-in-Chief in the 
strength of the Grand Fleet even during this time of strain. 

To add to the distractions of this hard month of Novem- 
ber, 1 9 14, an invasion scare took a firm hold of the military 
and naval authorities. It was argued by the War Office that 
the lull on the fighting fronts would enable the Germans to 
spare large numbers of good troops — 250,000 if necessary — 
for the invasion of Great Britain. Lord Kitchener directed 
all defensive preparations to be made, and Lord Fisher threw 
himself into the task with gusto. Although, as the reader is 
aware, I was sceptical on this subject, I felt that the precau- 
tions were justifiable, and would at any rate add interest to 
the life of our coast and Home defence forces. I therefore 
allowed myself to succumb to the suppressed excitement 
which grew throughout the highest circles, and did my ut- 
most to aid and speed our preparations. We stationed as 
described the 3rd Battle Squadron at the Forth, brought 
the 2nd Fleet to the Thames, disposed the old Majestic bat- 
tleships in the various harbours along the East Coast, ar- 
ranged block ships to be sunk, and laid mines to be exploded, 
at the proper time in the mouths of our undefended harbours; 
while the whole coastal watch, military, aerial and marine, 
throbbed with activity. The Army arrangements were com- 


plicated by the fact that some of the divisions which were 
sufficiently trained to be used to repel the invaders, had lent 
their rifles to those that were undergoing training, and these 
rifles had to be collected and redistributed as a part of the 
procedure prescribed for the supreme emergency. To such 
expedients were we reduced! However, the Germans re- 
mained absolutely quiescent; the tides and moon, which for 
some days before November 20 were exceptionally favourable 
to nocturnal landings, ceased to present these conditions, and 
the sense of some great impending event gradually faded 
from our minds. 

Lord Fisher to Mr. Churchill. 

7 a.m. , November 21, 1914. 

An angel's sleep ! In Heaven from 9 till now ! 

It was kind of you not to wake me with Grey's credible 
witness ! 

Let us entreat and urge Kitchener to send a hundred 
thousand men at once to Flanders, and warn Joffre not to 
be ' two divisions too few and two days too late ! ' Kitchener's 
balance of 160,000 men will amply suffice and the 'Ides of 
March' have passed! The waning moon and dawning tide 
[dawn high-tide] will not recur till days following December 
10. Do write to him accordingly, or shall I? 

It has been a splendid 'dress rehearsal,' tell him, and very 
reassuring — his mass of men and his mobile guns ! We must 
press him to send 100,000 men to Flanders. . . . 

On November 20 General Joffre asked for further naval 
co-operation on the Belgain coast. 

'General Foch,' he stated, 'reports that for some little 
time the French or English ships have no longer been par- 
ticipating in the action of our forces in the neighbourhood 
of Nieuport. On account of very violent bombardment by 
the enemy in this region, it would be advantageous if the 
ships could attack the numerous German batteries estab- 
lished to the east of the mouth of the Yser. I should be glad 
if you would notify the Ministry of Marine, and the Ad- 


miralty, of this situation, in order to obtain a more active 
co-operation on the part of the squadron between Nieuport 
and Ostend.' 

We were able to send the old battleship Revenge, whose 
guns had been specially re-mounted for long range fire, and 
several smaller vessels under Admiral Hood, and the naval 
bombardment of the German right was effectively resumed. 
' The conditions on the coast/ Hood, however, reported on 
the 22nd, 'are quite different from what they were during 
the first few days. To-day there was a heavy fire from guns 
I could not locate or damage. No troops are ever visible. 
The inundation has stopped their movement. ' 

To the situation of strain and effort which gripped us dur- 
ing November came the welcome relief of the victory at the 
Falklands. Lord Fisher received it with a moderated satis- 

1 We cannot/ he wrote to me on December 10, 'but be over- 
joyed at the Monmouth and Good Hope being avenged ! But 
let us be self-restrained — not too exultant! — till we know details I 
Perhaps their guns never reached us! (We had so few casual- 
ties !) We know their gunnery was excellent ! Their third 
salvo murdered Cradock! So it may have been like shooting 
pheasants: the pheasants not shooting back! Not too much 
glory for us, only great satisfaction. Not a battle for a Poet 
Laureate ! Let us wait and hear before we crow! Then again, 
it may be a wonder why the cruisers escaped — if they have 
escaped — I hope not, for we had such a preponderating force — 
such numbers ! {How the Glasgow must have enjoyed it !) Any- 
how, don't let us encourage ourselves in too many joy mes- 
sages till we know more/ 

But I made haste to ascribe to him all the credit that was 
his due. 

December 10. 
This was your show and your luck. 

I should only have sent one Greyhound 1 and Defence. This 
would have done the trick. 

battle cruiser. 


But it was a niggling coup. Your flair was quite true. 
Let us have some more victories together, and confound all 
our foes abroad — and (don't forget) at home. 

This delighted the Admiral, and in his reply (December 11) 
he threw a friendly light upon other fields of activity than 
those with which this chapter has been concerned. 

Your letter pleasant! There is another quite lovely scheme! 
I am to be praised so as to get 'swelled head' and think myself 
ignored by you, and to be in your shoes ! It is all too sweet 
for words ! It is palpably transparent ! I was told of this 
yesterday ! It really is curious why they so hate you ! I 

think I told you what G said, that though he abhorred me, 

yet ... I have splendid friends in the Tory camp ! 

A cause of difference, however, soon arose between us. The 
First Sea Lord was displeased with Sir Dove ton Sturdee for 
not having succeeded in destroying the German light cruiser 
Dresden with the rest, and he searchingly criticised that Admi- 
ral's dispositions after the action. He wished to leave Admiral 
Sturdee in South American waters till the Dresden was hunted 
down. As it was imperative that the Invincible and Infl